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.