My… where to begin. My relationship with YPT began in 2009. As a directing Apprentice with Obsidian Theatre, a key element to the apprenticeship was fostering connections with outside companies. I was brought on board as Apprentice Director of The Princess and the Handmaiden. I’ll never forget that first morning, the only person there not greeting old friends with hugs, and wondering if I’d ever feel as comfortable in that room as they did. To be part of a team that included not only a director, but a musical director and choreographer, meant that there wasn’t much space for my input. I watched, and listened. Intently. Allen and I had meetings and the more I shared my thoughts, the more interested he became in them. I slowly felt my role morph from observant apprentice to participatory Assistant Director who had the respect of my Director. I felt that respect grow in the Spring of 2011 when I was invited to co-direct Would You Say The Name Of This Play? (an incredible experience), as well as to become a Resident Artist Educator for part of the season.
It is impossible to not be enriched as a RAE. Working with children is always a joy but doing it for YPT and using the theatre’s programming as a tool for exploration and communication is a gift. Whether leading an educational workshop, a drama program for ESL toddlers, or a post-show Q&A, the common thread is witnessing first-hand how theatre can open children and youth up. In some cases the victory is simply getting a shy child to stand up and shout her name. In others, it’s seeing a 17-year old boy’s tough exterior soften before your eyes. The breakthroughs are big and small, but always rewarding. There are moments indelibly etched in my memory. One was having a young Islamic girl say during a Q&A that although raised with homophobia, she would be kind to gay people because she imagined being made fun of for being gay to be similar to how she felt being made fun of for wearing a hijab. Even writing about it now makes my eyes well up. There were many moments like this, in which something in a production triggered children to share insight — sometimes humorous and sometimes searing — that made me think: “YES. They GOT it.”
YPT was part of a major milestone for me when I made my solo directing debut for a professional Mainstage production with The Power of Harriet T! The enormity of faith that Allen showed, handing me the reins to the Mainstage after having only co-directed for The Studio, still moves me. It was invaluable and seeing the impact it made on thousands of students is something I’ll never forget. Every moment I spend in that building inspires and fuels me; I can say that about very few places. The walls are pulsing with positivity. Everyone there believes in wonder, and in children. It is magical. It feels like home.
– Tanisha Taitt