The BABY STEPS ARCHIVE by Tanisha Taitt

Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Friday, March 14, 2008

So long overdue... from me to you

My beautiful lads & lassies,

Blessings to you. It has been a long, long time since I've spoken to you all - the longest gap between Baby Steps since I started it. It wasn't my intention to not write for this long, but I guess sometimes life demands that you just live it and not report on it or attempt to observe it too closely. It also sometimes strays from the tried and true and the familiar, leaving you to try and sift through and process it before you're actually able to form a cohesive sentence. Or, maybe cohesive isn't the right word. Perhaps the more appropriate word is "relevant". The last time I spoke to you I was busy at school, taking on the part of Becca in a scene from a great play called Rabbit Hole, a part that won Cynthia Nixon a Tony last year for Best Actress. She's a beautiful, tragic character - a mother who is dealing with the death of her little boy in a hit-and-run car accident at the same time that her sister becomes pregnant. It was a huge leap away from what I'd done the semester before, playing a cerebral palsy-afflicted woman confined to a wheelchair. I absolutely loved it, especially having my freedom of mobility back!

Thanks to everyone who came to my show in October with the beautiful Wendy Lands. Holy crow... that was October? Where does the time go? It was great to be back on a stage again singing instead of acting. I feel so good performing my music and it had been far too long... which is why it's so crazy to say that I haven't touched my piano in three months. It seems virtually impossible to me... it's seriously almost 100 days. It hasn't gone anywhere and still sits patiently in the corner of my room, most likely wondering if I've developed amnesia. I stared at my guitar last week for all of about five minutes before putting it in its case so it couldn't stare back. I have no idea why I haven't been writing and haven't been playing, other than to say that it must be a testament to the fact that my insatiable need to be creative is being fulfilled in another way. I never thought anything could pull me away from music for an entire season of the year... but V-Day has managed to do just that. (Thanks to everyone who played at the launch, also way back in October!)

As you may remember, I'm the Producer/Director of V-Day Toronto. Last year, that meant overseeing both the logistical and artistic elements of V-Day's signature event, The Vagina Monologues. This year I stretched myself a bit (okay, a lot) further, taking on an entire second show. A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer is a brand new work commissioned by V-Day on the topic of violence against women, that made its Canadian premiere on March 1 & 2 at the Phoenix Concert Theatre. It is an absolutely stunning show - some of THE most exquisite writing I have ever witnessed. I was blessed with a dream cast of women and beautiful men culled from over 100 auditionees, and working on it was the most challenging, emotionally demanding thing I have ever done. The pieces are haunting, poignant, gorgeous, disturbing, and deeply moving. Before the public show, we held a private one for women who had been abused, as well as for their support workers. It was so powerful... so interesting and empowering and horrifying and thrilling and uncomfortable and enriching all once. People were deeply impacted. I will never forget Rick and Jimmy, the two sound techs at the Phoenix, emerging from their booths on each night of the show with tears in their eyes. I couldn't believe how heartfelt their emotions were and how profoundly affected they were... I actually feared that their bear hugs might suffocate me! It left an indellible impression on all of us. That show and I have a future together... I'm not ready to say goodbye to it yet. I really feel that it needs to be seen by everyone.

The night after MMRP was one I will never forget. V-Day is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Each year the organization selects a Spotlight cause to which they donate 10% of the money raised by events around the world (the rest goes to a local organization in each city.) This year their Spotlight is The Woman of New Orleans, for women who two years later are still displaced, suffering and forgotten in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. V-Day will be having their 10th Anniversary celebration - V-to-the-Tenth - in New Orleans in April and the women of that city will experience love and support like they've never known. But back to that night. The founder of V-Day and author of the Monologues, Eve Ensler, was guest-of-honour at Tickled Pink, our V-Day benefit concert (that was absolutely gorgeous). I was very nervous picking her up at her hotel, but she put me at ease immediately with a big hug and a bigger smile. Eve gave an incredible speech that enthralled the crowd; she was the sweetest, warmest woman imaginable. I was standing at the back door of the house listening to her awe when she made me lose all feeling in my legs by announcing that V-Day had chosen me as a 2008 V-Warrior (an honour they bestow on women who they feel demonstrate above-average commitment and whose passion for the cause inspires others.) My eyes welled up as she stated simply "Tanisha IS V-Day in Toronto." I was thinking to myself "I must be dreaming... I must be asleep..." Then she followed that by announcing that "Tanisha doesn't know this yet", but I’d been selected as one of the international V-Day Producers who they had chosen to bring to New Orleans.

What?!?!?!?! My legs just about gave out and the rest of the Production Team had to grab me… then they all leapt on me! Cast members erupted screaming and the audience applauded and people were throwing their arms around me cheering and crying and I was in a complete daze. When Eve was finished talking I gave a completely unplanned speech, one of the most emotionally raw things I've ever done. The impromptu moment was embraced by the audience. It was too, too amazing – one of the very best nights of my life, without question. So I leave for Louisiana in a month - smelling Cajun food already - and I'm honoured and excited beyond words. I will be representing not only Toronto, but Canada, at V-to-the-Tenth and I'm so proud to do so. I cannot wait to meet the other women who Eve has chosen. I know that I'm on a connecting flight with a woman named Yannar who I am told is quite extraordinary; she is the Producer of V-Day Baghdad! It's all just a bit mindblowing.

And so that brings me to this weekend and our final event for V-Day Toronto '08 - the 10th Anniversary production of The Vagina Monologues. The shows will be taking place this Saturday and Sunday and the cast is fabulous! Wonderful, extremely gifted women. Along with the brilliant local actors who have bowled me over with their grace and talent, we also have a few special guests. Musician Tara Slone returns to the cast for a second year and I'm thrilled to have her back. Also performing is singer Saidah Baba Talibah, an amazing talent who is the daughter of jazz/blues legend Salome Bey. SunTV's Janette Luu, host of CanoeLive, joins our cast as does Sinead Brady, runner-up of Season Two of Canada's Next Top Model. Dora award-winning playwright, actor and dub poet D'bi Young will perform the 2008 Spotlight Monologue, and also gracing our cast is singer-songwriter Theresa Sokyrka, a fine artist who many of you will recognize as runner-up of Season Two of Canadian Idol. The shows will be hosted by comediennes Nikki Payne (Saturday) and Debra DiGiovanni (Sunday), both of whom are best known from NBC's Last Comic Standing.

Proceeds from our events go to Street Haven at the Crossroads, an amazing organization that operates 8 different initiatives for women in crisis including a battered women's shelter, drug-rehab centre, and literacy program. I'm extending a special offer to all of you on the list. Say "Baby Steps" at the door and receive two tickets for $39. That's 2-for-1. Along with directing the show, I'm also performing a piece in it. I would love you to come - chances are extremely high that you will never get to see me play a lesbian dominatrix again. ; ) I can't wait to see what happens when this whole experience is over and I seek to fill the inevitable void writing music. Should be very interesting... Okay, my heavy eyes are saying time for bed. I hope to see many of your familiar faces this weekend. The women of Street Haven would greatly appreciate the help. V-Day really does save and change lives. Big big hugs to all.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fall and Rise

Hello dear people,

Welcome to Fall, the prettiest of seasons and yet the most woefully named. I presume it's because the leaves fall, and temperatures fall, and maybe even our spirits fall a bit after the blaze of summer. But Fall is so lovely - I can't even imagine living somewhere where the leaves didn't change colour. Those shades of orange and crimson are such a natural wonder, a painting come alive. I hope everyone had a great couple of months and that each of you has an adventure to file away in the Summer of '07 collage in your mind. Adventures can be dramatic and action-packed but they can also be quiet and still. They are the journeys we take, and the way in which they vary is what makes each life different from the next.

I had a few weeks off from school, which was really nice but felt odd! Actually being home in the evening every night? What a concept. Before I knew it though it was September and class was beckoning again. I'm now in Advanced Scene Study and loving it already. This term I'm playing the role of Becca in Rabbit Hole, an absolute gem of a play. Cynthia Nixon, who played Miranda on Sex In The City, won a Tony this year for her portrayal of the role. I'm very excited to get to unwrap Becca and explore how I will meld with her and vice-versa. After spending 3 months last semester inhabiting a character with severely impaired speech and limited mobility, it's SO freeing to be able to use my true voice and move naturally again.

THE 2008 V-DAY TORONTO CAMPAIGN IS KICKING OFF THIS FRIDAY NIGHT! Thus begins the amazing nearly 6-month journey that will end with the '08 events next March. 2008 is the 10th Anniversary of V-Day, an amazing international organization committed to the eradication of violence against women and girls in all of its forms. This will be my second and last turn in the dual role of Producer/Director, and although I'll be handing over the reins for 2009, I will be a diehard V-Dayer for the rest of my days and may even turn up in the Monologues as an actor once again. We'll be launching V-Day Toronto '08 with a fundraising party this Friday, October 5th at the NOW Lounge (189 Church St. at Shuter) at 9 p.m.. Cover is $8, and everyone who pays to enter will have his or her name printed in next year's programme. Local singer/songwriters Heather Alford and Nancy Lim will share some songs and there will be munchies, music, stimulating conversation and lots of fun. =) The NOW Lounge is a really cozy and hip little venue so start the long weekend by joining us! The host will actually be doing a few tunes too. The host, by the way, would be me. I'll be performing some new songs, none of which will be in my show later this month...

Which brings me to my show later this month, on Saturday October 20th, 9:30 p.m at Cameron House. I'll be sharing the evening with the fabulous Wendy Lands and I can't wait. Along with a cover or two, I'll be singing all-new material, nothing I've ever performed before. It's my first full-length show with a band since the end of 2005(!) and I am so looking forward to it. My music has been informed by a lot - both within me and around me - in the last couple of years. It will be wonderful to be back on stage singing and not acting! I realize that I've been so immersed in the theatre stuff since late 2005 that there are people who know me that have no idea that I even make music, which is so weird. I'll share a little story that I posted on Facebook a few weeks ago. I was being introduced by someone I'm in school with to another person. The person doing the introducing says "This is Tanisha. She's a fine actor who also composes a bit of music and sings a little." I'm thinking "WHAT THE?!?!" It sounded sooo bizarre to me. It was the first time that someone had ever relegated music to #2 rung on my creative ladder. Composes "a bit"? Uh, yeah... pretty much constantly since I was 15! The love I have for acting is exciting and stirring and deep but music is my heart and my songs are my blood. That will never change.

And speaking of things exciting and stirring and deep, I went to my beautiful friend Tanya's wedding just steps from the banks of Lake Simcoe on Saturday, and it changed my life. Sounds extreme, but it's true. Once in awhile you find yourself in a place, in a moment, during which you are supremely aware that you are experiencing something transcendent, witnessing the highest that is in us as human beings and sitting at the table of the divine. I was truly nurtured and nourished at that table and I left with a new perspective, a more open mind, a clearer vision and a brimming heart. Who could ask for more from a single day?

Much love to all. May you feel passion & peace, and I hope to see your smiling faces at the upcoming events. Now it's bed for me. G'nite.

xo Tanisha

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Goodbye July

Hi folks,

Well, July is almost over. It seems like just yesterday it was June 21st and we were all happy that summer had finally arrived. Now it's a less than a week until the end of the month. Where did it go? I have absolutely no idea. Perhaps my non-existent memory of the past four weeks is due to the fact that I'm not as young as I used to be, but I'd like to think not. It's probably because I've been extremely busy with work and school, researching and writing an essay, studying for tests and rehearsing scenes, all the while going to what seems like a neverending string of meetings at my day job. In the midst of this I am trying to be there for my dearest friend, who is now facing the heartwrenching and imminent loss of one of his parents. One day his dad's forgetfulness seems to be just the inevitable result of aging, the next it's a diagnosis of an inoperable malignant brain tumor. It is breaking my heart to see his heart breaking. Cancer is sooo evil. I pray that the day will come when we shall be rid of it, but I must admit that my hopes aren't high. With so much hatred and hostility out there, it seems unlikely that that will happen. I say that because I don't think it's as simple as a great medical breakthrough. I honestly believe that all negative energy is interwoven. The overabundance of it on this planet has to find places to take root and to fester - why not in us? And so, good people are ravaged by diseases, are riddled with bullets on the street, burn in ill-fated downed planes and emaciate themselves into walking skeletons. It's like the bodies of the innocent become pods, hosts for all of the darkness in the world. It is searing.

Still, there are rays of light that find their way through, bright beams of it. There is family and friends and love and passion. I am thankful for those things. Despite the work, the love I feel for school right now has been a blessing. I just finished yet another semester in my Theatre program, and it was by far the scariest and most challenging work I've done. The last time I wrote I mentioned that I was going to be playing a woman with severe cerebral palsy and a penchant for bad words. Well I did it, and it was absolutely exhausting but SO enriching too. There are few things that'll challenge your inhibitions like having to throw yourself on the floor and writhe around in front of an audience spewing objectionables while implying that half of your body is paralyzed. Oh and by the way, my character, Scarlett, is murdered at the end! Yikes. It was intense. At the end of our final presentation last Thursday I had a tear-stained face and could barely move, but it felt great. Scarlett has been a focus of mine for months and it feels strange now to not be spending some time with her on a daily basis. But I'll be back in Scene Study in the fall and soon enough I'll be steeped in someone new, so I'm fine with spending some time just being Tanisha for now.

If you still have not seen the film Once, you must. It is simple and touching and inspiring and sweet and pretty close to perfect.

I told you in the last newsletter that I had started writing a new record. It continues, although I haven't had the time to be nearly as consumed by it as I normally would be. Now that my class is done, I will be having more rendez - (hey, what is the plural of "rendezvous"???) with the keys. I am thinking of making a sparse and stripped-down album before another fully-produced one... an acoustic jaunt... still ruminating on that one. An old pal of mine from the Harris Institute wrote me a while back and said he'd been thinking of me and wanted to hear me sing some jazz alongside his playing.... ooooh. Something else to ponder with a mix of intrigue and trepidation, not unlike most of the things I ponder. =) Every vocalist has a million singers that he or she would love to channel sometimes. Yes oh Lordy yes it would be wicked to make sounds like Sarah Vaughan, but there is just as big a part of me that would kill to sing like Sarah Brightman. From earthy to angelic - voices are so different and so beautiful in their distinctiveness. Every heart speaking with its own pitch and timbre and tone... I love that.

I am eight weeks away from what will be my first show in 18 months, and I can't believe it's been so long. That's the longest period of time that I've been away from performing my own music in 9 years. So much has happened in the interim and it all continues to mold me, so I'm pretty sure that I won't be the same gal onstage on September 22nd that I was last time around. It will also be my first time playing myself in ages! I am really, really looking forward to it. Now if only I could nail the band down...

Awaiting August, Tanisha

Friday, June 01, 2007

Remembrance & Realization

Hello my dears,

It's finally nice outside for more than two days in a row! Whew! I've added a few people to the list who I thought would be interested in getting the newsletters. If I'm wrong, feel free to click on the link at the bottom of this email and unsubscribe. Please ignore the fact that you'll be causing me grievous psychological injury.

I am certain that my preoccupation with Facebook is bordering on some sort of disorder. But that aside, today is my mother's birthday, and I want to send her the biggest hug in the world. Thanks Mom for having me and helping to mold me into an acceptable human being. =) I love you and am grateful for all that you have given and continue to give.

This week is also the 3-year anniversary of the passing of a very special man, who I adored for all that he was and all that he saw in me. Very often, actors or singer-songwriters will talk about finding the one director or producer who really "gets" them, who is able to sit with them and almost immediately and effortlessly knows exactly who they are as artists, what they have inside of them, how to pull that out and the way best to illuminate it. Unfortunately, I discovered that person only seven months before he died. It's a difficult loss to explain. This was a glorious human being and a consummate musician who had worked with people I can't even speak my name in the same sentence with, but who had a crush on my music and told me so in those very words. He was a student of the sound of New Orleans, who played the blues like he breathed and could mosey on over to folkland or rockland without batting an eyelish. Those blue eyes held more soul in them than just about anyone I ever knew. And his belief in me as a songwriter overwhelmed me. I remember playing my songs for him on his piano, and he'd sit perfectly still and just stare at me singing. He would listen so intently, leaning in on occasion... smiling... and he'd let out little yelps or the smile would become a grin when he heard a chord change or a vocal line or lyric he loved. I wouldn't even notice that he'd grabbed his lap steel or his mandolin or percussion until I heard the sweetest sounds beside me. Sometimes the song would end and there'd be silence. He'd simply give me a kiss on the forehead, saying nothing, or stand behind me resting his hands on my shoulders and chin on my head. Then he'd suddenly take my hand, jump up and ask "Okay - ready to work?" with all the enthusiasm and childlike excitement of an 8-year old headed to Disneyland. When he died on May 30, 2004, the scream that came from my throat was nothing compared to the scream that bounced off the walls of my head and my heart.

There are people who kept my light from going out when the idea of making music without Ed seemed like sacrilege. My friend Mark gave me tireless support for which I am so thankful. And the amazing Jordan O'Connor, who helped a grief-stricken girl start all over again by making the album Overflow with her, is a wonderboy. I will always feel so much pride in the fact that we ploughed through that period and made that record, even if it wasn't the one I originally set out to make. I used entirely different songs from those on the original tracklist, because the pain was too fresh and the thought of recording them with someone else just felt wrong. I made sure that Ed was a part of that record though, by penning the song Morphine. I didn't write it until we'd almost finished tracking, but I'm so glad I did. I lost a soulmate the day that he left, and I see now that I have mourned him, and the loss of him as my champion, for 1,000 days since. I do believe that it's time to stop. It's time to create an album carrying a mantle of devotion not devastation, of serenity not sorrow. I realized this on Tuesday night, sitting in the audience at the CD release of my friend Tanya's band, The River Pilots. I sat there as this bright soothing light beamed at me from the stage, and I was overcome by the beauty and the unbridled joy evident in what I was hearing. I couldn't remember feeling that kind of joy for making music in 3 years. It reminded me so much of Eddie, the organicness of it, the brilliance of it. It reminded me too of what he always believed I had in me. It was a flash of greatness that rocked me to the core and I sat in my seat long after the show ended, in tears. I knew right then and there that something was over and something was starting. What "it" was, I wasn't exactly sure. I just knew when I walked out of Clinton's that night that I was not the same person I was when I walked in. It was good.

It's time to take Eddie's spirit and his faith in me and infuse it into what comes next. I am writing a brand new record, and feeling a new sense of appreciation for the fact that I can express my thoughts and feelings in this wonderful way. Perhaps I had come to take it for granted. And after taking a semester off from school to produce V-Day, I am back and facing the most challenging acting work I've ever done. For my Scene Study class I am doing Judith Thompson's Lion In The Streets (interestingly, Judith and I were in the cast of the Monologues together in 2006... how interconnected it all is...) and I'm playing the role of Scarlett, a deeply troubled woman with cerebral palsy. She also has a bit of a foul mouth, which I'm sure is mildly horrifying my mother as she reads this (did you read the first line Mom where I said how much I love you???), but I'm so excited to step outside of myself and crawl into her skin and her head for awhile. It's funny. Playing different characters really gives you a newfound perspective and appreciation for your own life.

Well, I think that's it for now. Pick up the album The Story by Brandi Carlile. It is my newest addiction. Beautiful.

Have a blessed weekend.

Grace&Gratitude, Tanisha

Monday, April 30, 2007

Hello There Everyone

My beautiful friends,

Is it too late to wish you a happy new year? Yes, 'tis just a tad shameful that you haven't heard from me since December, but I assure you that you have not been forgotten. The first four months of this year were insanely busy for me, but the storm has broken and so here I am. I sincerely hope that 2007 has been kind to you thus far and if it hasn't, that the tide will turn soon and bring nothing but happiness to your shores.

I just got back from vacationing in Sao Paulo, and had a truly lovely time. There are parts of Brazil that are just pristine... so beautiful... and the people are so warm. I'm sure it was quite amusing for them watching my sister and I and are our heartfelt attempts at Portuguese. And the food!!!! Oh my gosh, I've never seen an entire nation whose religion is meat. The preparation of it is like art to them. The steak was ridiculous... I can still taste it now. Ah, picanha... how I miss thee. I honestly think that the concept of vegetarianism would completely confound the entire population. Veganism would traumatize them because they also love their cheese!

Producing and directing The Vagina Monologues was the most ambitious undertaking of my artistic evolution thus far - taking charge of an extremely wellknown piece of theatre with a cast of 24 when I'd never directed in my life - but the experience solidified every ounce of faith I had in myself when I took the job. Taking on the role of either Producer or Director would have been a lot of work; doing both was something that some people told me I was foolish to even try. But directing was always primary goal and I knew that once I stepped into the Producer role, there was no way that I was going to be able to hand creative control to someone else. Not a chance. I had such a clear vision of what I wanted the show to be and so much invested emotionally in its outcome, that I never imagined doing it any other way but mine.

I won't get too in depth about the weekend of the shows, or else this newsletter would end up being about six pages long. What I will say is this: I had a dream cast and I am SO fiercely proud of the performances I was able to help shape and bring to the stage along with these incredible talented women. My time with them showed me the very best of womanhood - of human beings - and opened my heart and mind in a way that I couldn't have foreseen. That we were able to raise money for a shelter for abused Native women and their children was the cherry on top of an already delicious cake... What an interesting year and a half it's been. It took me in creative directions I never saw coming, and now I can't imagine myself without them. I took last semester off from auditioning to focus on the Monologues, but now it's time to try to do something acting again, which I absolutely love and have missed.

The one thing that has been on the backburner longer than usual, and it's time to take it off, is my music. There are SO many new songs waiting patiently to be finished, several finished waiting to be demoed, and all longing to be performed live. One thing I can promise you is that over the next little while, you will hear a lot of new writing demos. It's interesting that in the time that you've heard almost nothing from me, I feel that I've made my most significant steps forward as a songwriter thus far. Bigger than baby ones.


Monday, January 29, 2007

V-Day Toronto 2007

Hey my peeps,

Happy New Year to you all. I hope that you are all well, surviving the cold, and had an amazing holiday season. I am having a wonderful, exhausting, overwhelming and creatively exhilarating time as the Producer/Director of V-Day Toronto '07. I thought I'd drop you all a line about THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES, which goes on sale in 7 hours! There are two shows this year, on March 3rd & 4th. The first performance is a Community Outreach show at the Workman Theatre (at the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health), which I elected to do to make the show more accessible to students and lower income women. The second show, our main fundraiser, will be a seated performance at the Phoenix Concert Theatre.

As beneficiary of this year's production I have chosen the Anduhyaun Residence, a shelter for abused Native women and their children. 10% of proceeds will also go to the 2007 Spotlight - Reclaiming Peace: Women In War Zones - to benefit organizations assisting women victimized by violence in the Sudan, Iraq and the Congo. Our special guests are Canadian indie music darlings Wendy Lands, Simon Wilcox and Mia Sheard, Degrassi: The Next Generation star Lauren Collins, Rockstar:INXS finalist Tara Slone, MuchMoreMusic VJ Traci Melchor and Stargate:SG1 star Amanda Tapping. The shows will be hosted by NDP M.P. Olivia Chow and TV host & author Dr. Marla Shapiro, respectively.

There is another aspect to this year's V-Day which is very dear to my heart. The V-Day organization formulated "V-Day Men" a while back, but it's too often overlooked. V-Day Men provides the opportunity for men to have a voice in this very important issue because at the end of the day, violence against women will not stop until men stop it. Unfortunately men are depicted all-too-often as perpetrators, but they are also our husbands, fathers, brothers, boyfriends and best friends. I wanted to add an element to this year's V-Day that celebrates the wonderful men that do exist and gives them a chance to support this cause. I conceived a benefit concert of singer-songwriters - all men - as a featured event of V-Day Toronto 2007. STRIKE A CHORD... Not A Woman will be held on Saturday March 10th at the Workman Theatre. More details to come.

See what happens when you put a musician in charge of the Monologues??? You end up with a bunch of them in the cast, a concert as an auxiliary event and a show at the Phoenix! =) Tickets for the concert go on sale a week from tomorrow. TVM goes on sale at 10 a.m. today and tickets can be purchased here. I would love to have you there on what will be a very special weekend for me, my Production team and our beautiful, beautiful cast. Okay it's exactly 3:00 a.m. Lights out for me.

Keep warm,

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Part II - Snorkeling

I learned in 2006 is how easy it is for distance to set in between you and the people you care about. There are split seconds in which you suddenly recognize that perhaps you mean less to others than they do to you; it can be hard to accept how easily some people seem to be willing to let your presence in their lives just fade to black. I’ve always tried to maintain and nurture my relationships… but sometimes you just don’t get it back. You know how some people are so warm and receptive and engaged when they communicate with you, but unless you initiate it, they don’t? That can be a hurtful realization. It makes you question a lot of things, not the least of which is your own sense of perception.

I have news of a project to share with all of you that I’m absolutely thrilled about. As you know, in February I was a member of the ensemble of The Vagina Monologues. Next March, with the blessing of last year’s production team and the Head of the V-Day Worldwide Campaign, I will be making my debut as Director and Co-Producer of the official V-Day Toronto 2007 presentation. It’s a whole lot of work but I’ve assembled a fantastic Production team, which will allow me to devote as much of myself as I need to realizing my creative vision for the show. Auditions were a very interesting experience as it was my first time in the role of Casting Director – particularly kool was reading everyone’s responses to my “In 25 words of less, what does being a woman mean to you?” question. It was two long days of auditioning and I ate an obscene number of chips, but we found some wonderful actresses and I cannot wait to work with them. What a gift to be halfway through a 9 hour casting call and have someone walk in whose audition brings tears to your eyes, or makes you burst into laughter, or raises every pore on your arms. Great moments. Thank you to my Associate Producer Laura for donating the lovely Labspace Studio for our auditions. I will have much more info to share with you about the show in next month’s newsletter. To those of you who’ve sweetly been asking when the heck I’ll be performing again, the answer is not until the Monologues are over! I’m going to be eating breathing and sleeping vaginas for the next 3 months (okay, a part of that came out waaaay wrong!), but when V-Day wraps up I plan on singing and singing and singing my little heart out.

That said, I haven’t written any music since September. That probably doesn’t seem like very long, but I haven’t gone three months without composing a song since 1996. At any time in the past, I’d have been frantic right now. I would’ve been steeped in worry, sure that I was locked in some permanent state of Writer’s Block and lamenting the fact that the songs had left me forever. But I don’t feel that way, because it hasn’t been a block at all. It’s been a lack of inclination. For the last three months I’ve walked past my keyboard everyday and heard no call, and it’s probably one of the healthy things that could be happening right now. There was a period earlier this year during which I penned SO much that I was becoming consumed. If I didn’t write something for 3 days I would start trembling for reasons I couldn’t put my finger on, or I’d get a migraine, or insomnia. I see now that writing songs had become my sole means of release, and no one can be healthy with just one. It’s like having a ventilation system where air can only get through one hole. It can’t work.

So now I trust that a melody will come in its own time as it always does, and lyrics will follow as they always do, and every rendezvous with my instruments will be a moment of inspired searching rather than required purging. Whether the water is dark or clear, murky or blue, I know that I can jump in and go snorkeling with a full tank. I can touch the bottom if I have to and reach for the prettiest shells and not run out of air. Realizing that I could bring other outlets into my life that filled me so much that I could not write for 3 months and still be emotionally sound was a defining moment, or as Sheryl Crow said in a recent quote that I read, a refining moment. There are so many types of moments aren’t there? Unfortunately we spend a lot of time on the whining moments! But there are shining moments, confining moments, interwining moments, aligning moments. Every day of our lives we are mining moments, if we’re paying attention.

I want to wish all of you an amazing holiday season, filled with light, laughter, seriously good food and lots of music. I’ve enjoyed keeping in touch with all of you during '06 and I appreciate the beautiful feedback you’ve sent me. I wish you nothing but joy, peace, and self-discovery for 2007. See you next year.

Much love,

Part 1 - Surfing

Hello lovely people,

Only 12 more days until this year is a memory, and there's so much dancing around my head as it draws to a close that I'm going to do something I've never done before - a two-part newsletter. Yes a tad self-indulgent perhaps (!), but I do love writing to you all and the end of a year is always a very reflective time. Better to break it up than having you scrolling forever. =)

I have fallen in love - my sister bought my dad a new puppy for his retirement last January, and I am completely, shamelessly smitten with her. As a result I have been forcing her picture on all of my friends and co-workers. Her name is Rosa (I named her after Rosa Parks and my late grandma Rose) and she's the most perfect baby yellow lab in the world, but she's not quite a baby anymore! She just turned one and no longer looks like a puppy. She looks like a - well - dog. I truly believe that she may have the cutest face on the planet. (Note to all: When you get a Retriever, be prepared to have her constantly retrieving things that you didn't ask for.) She also has entirely too much energy and thoroughly enjoys jumping on people and trying to eat everything she sees. "Rosa! That's not your bone! That's the remote control! Rosa chew your toy, not my toes! Rosa put down those boots! " Oh well. At least she's not pooping & diddling in the house the way she used to. When she curls up in her bed and looks up at me, I'm done for. Putty. A puddle of melted cheese.

I was recently a featured vocalist on the upcoming album by Toronto band Lovejoy. The tunes are fiercely catchy and I think the CD's gonna kick. It was fun in the studio because I got to do what I don't do nearly enough, which is really rock out. Ah, what a good place to put all my suppressed rage! I also got to do something that I do in my sleep, harmonize. I barely even recall singing melodies to songs on the radio past the age of about 12. I remember being in about grade seven and wondering why I was bothering to sing the same part as the person on the recording when they were already singing it... I am a self-professed Harmony Ho - give me any melody line and I'll do it!

I decided that this year was going to be the one in which I dared to do things that I secretly longed to do within the artistic sphere but hadn't the bravery to try. I've been doing it, and the universe seems to be rewarding me for the effort. I am loving my Theatre program so much and it feels like such a natural fit that I can't even imagine myself not having begun it. It's like surfing and stumbling upon the biggest and most beautiful wave... I know though that had I not lost my job early this year I probably wouldn't have felt the intense desire that I did to unearth more of myself. I'd have continued to audition for things for fun, but I certainly wouldn't have discovered the amazing level of belief in my work that I found in my instructors and fellow actors. I had an amazing semester that just ended, playing characters in Proof, Night of the Iguana, Brighton Beach Memoirs and getting to perform an absolutely wicked monologue from The Accused. Then there was Improv, all about creating something out of nothing. They use two very different parts of your brain and it's a total rush going back and forth.

I realize that I'm simply an artist who craves more colours in her palette. Aren't we all? I believe that every other artistic endeavour I embrace will make me a better songwriter and a better vocalist, because each one will create a more experienced human being. And what is songwriting if not putting the life experienced to music? Although I still have a lot to learn and much growing to do, I'm beginning to truly feel like an actress now, in my veins, and I didn't a year ago. I can't even begin to explain what that does to my blood. Everyone needs a feeling like that. It should be a New Year's promise made to yourself. Find your wave.

So ends Part I,