Tanisha Taitt explores the legacy of an act of violence.
It's easy to find an alliterative adjective to describe Tanisha Taitt - "talented."
Actor, singer, producer, director, apprentice lighting designer and teacher, Taitt's now adding playwright to her roster of skills.
Violent Be Violet is the story of Violet, the sole survivor of a mass killing 14 years in the past. Understandably troubled by memories, she seeks help from Genevieve, her former psych teacher, now a nun; her mother and brother are concerned that she needs more professional assistance than Genevieve can provide.
"I wanted to work with the idea of a traumatized person who's not able to get past that suffering," says Taitt, who ran V-Day Toronto for five years, producing and directing two versions of The Vagina Monologues. "In an early draft she was a rape survivor, but after reading stories of campus shootings, I challenged myself to write about a different sort of victim."
The playwright, who also plays the title character, describes Violet as "an extremely bright woman in her mid-30s who had planned to be a surgeon. The random act of senseless violence that killed her friends has left her unable to function in the world. After periods of regression and recovery, she now seems to be spiraling out of control."
Wearing the dual hats of writer and actor was initially tricky.
"The longer rehearsals go on, the easier it is to make that distinction, for the room becomes the director's domain," she laughs. "At first it was hard to be objective, not too protective of the words and open to alternative perspectives on the script. There have even been surprising moments for me, when I have to call for a line that I myself had written.
"But working with director Philip Akin has been a great experience," says Taitt. "He's so smart and passionate, which I discovered when I apprenticed with him at Obsidian Theatre. Collaborating with him on Violent Be Violet means that I have to stop watching him work with my director's mind and instead take in what he says to me as an actor."
Violent Be Violet opens Saturday (August 11) at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace.