Living a Creative Life with Tia Shearer Bassett
In the FIRST episode of The Notable Woman Podcast, Mom and creative life force Tia Shearer Bassett tells us how she lives a creative life.
Listen now 👇🏻
- How Tia and her director and fellow creative husband find a way to live their creative life
- The many theatres that Tia partners with
- Poetry and why it’s so yummily delicious
- Books, of course
- Hub Theatre
- Flying V Theatre – Theatre for people who don’t think they like theatre
- Arts on the Horizon – “Baby theatre” or theatre for very young audiences – Learn more in this article from American Theatre
- National Conservatory for the Dramatic Arts – where Tia teaches
- #TheatreWolf – Tia’s hashtag
- New York University (NYU)
- Gallatin School of Individualized Study
- NPR poetry on Twitter
- Mary Oliver – a poet that Tia recommends for us
- Nutt and Bolt at Arts on the Horizon – junkyard robot play for teeny tinies
- Helen Hayes awards
- Sustainable Arts Foundation – supports artists with children
- Imagination Stage
- The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (show and book)
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About Tia Shearer Bassett
Hello hello, Cristin here. Just wanted to let you know that this episode was recorded before the podcast name change. If you hear any old terminology, that’s why. Thank you for listening.
I’m not Tia the person and Tia the mom and Tia the creator. I’m, I’m Tia. I just happen to do all these things.
Hello and welcome to today’s episode of The Notable Woman Podcast. I’m your host Kristen Downs, and I’m happy to bring you today’s interview with the TIA Show. , actually, that is her MySpace profile.
Yes, Tia. I found it. Who am I talking about? I am talking about Tia Sheer Bassett. Tia is a ball of energy, a lover of life, a creative, and my dear, dear friend, she acts, writes, directs, and creates for the Washington DC theater scene. The life of a creative is quite challenging. You’ve really gotta love it.
But what if your sweetheart is also a. And then you have a child. To be honest, it makes my eyes start twitching, but Tia has found a way to make it work. I won’t call it balance per se, cuz I personally don’t believe in balance. I think it’s a myth, but what they do, it works for them. I hope you enjoy our interview about beautiful creative life this notable woman has built.
I’ll be back at the end of the episode to fill in any. Welcome to The Notable Woman Podcast. I am happy to introduce today’s guest, my good friend and artistic crush, Tia Sheer Bassett. Tia Sheer Bassett is an actor, director, writer, creator, living and working in Washington dc This theater Wolf works as a company member with the Hub Theater Flying V and Arts on the Horizon where she.
Often creates her own baby theater pieces and also as a teacher at the National Conservatory of the Dramatic Arts. Please join me in welcoming Tia. Hi Tia. I’m so happy that you’re here today. Is there anything you would love to add to your introduction? That was pretty lovely. I’m especially impressed that you got Theater Wolf in there,
That’s my hashtag, so thank you. I love that. That is your hashtag I. The perfect hashtag for you. So folks out there hashtag theater wolf, and you’ll hear all about the wonderful things that Tia is doing. Now, you are a very multifaceted woman. How do you describe yourself when people ask that awful party question?
What do you do? So we, we mentioned Theater Wolf and my hashtag Theater Wolf. And that actually came about because I realized that I, I’ve gone for years calling myself just an actor and that is a lovely, lovely thing to be, and I’m super proud that I get to do that for a living, but that’s not, All that I am or all that I do, even as a career.
But somewhere along the line, early on I got this idea that, oh, casting people in companies aren’t going to take you seriously as an actor if you’re a slash, you know, if you’re an actor slash director slash devis slash whatever it is. So I was like, you know what I, I just have to put myself out there as an actor if I wanna get theater acting work, and sort of hide all the other parts of myself.
And this year I said, screw that . Talking to a friend of mine who went through the same undergrad program as I did, I did, uh, NYU’s Gallatin School for Individualized Studies. He said, yeah, you’re a generalist, honey. That’s an amazing thing to be, and it’s in vogue right now, . But I love that. And now there are a few different ways that I’ll introduce myself.
I’ll tell people I’m a, I’m a theater artist, you know, and if they ask for more, I’ll tell them what that entails. For me, it means that I, I act, but I also create theater. I’m sometimes on the design part of a theater company. I’m sometimes. Doing social media. I’m sort of a, a theater j of all trades, and I’ve, I’ve really enjoyed just owning that this year.
I love that expression, uh, theater, Jill of all trades. I think that’s a lovely way to describe it. Now, you recently had some poetry featured on NPR r via a Twitter hashtag that they created, and I thought that was pretty cool. I know poetry is huge for you. What do you like about it as a reader and a poet?
Hmm. Yay. Thank you for asking me. love talking about this. What I love about poetry is that despite the fact that it uses words, poems can take me to a place beyond words and beyond language. I have a very visceral experience of poetry, and I think that’s, that’s something that poetry offers to all of us.
A poem can hit me the way, the way an aroma. Every, every time I smell apricots or taste honey, I, I think of my grandmother and I’m taken back to one of the many times in her house when I was a child, you know, and it might not even be a specific memory, but it’s sort of an amalgam of the memories of time with her.
And a good poem does the exact same thing to me. And it might not even be, it’s not that it doesn’t matter exactly what the poet intended, but what I love about a good poem is that the other part of it, What it does to you, the reader. And I think a good poet knows that, you know, so they, they put this thing out there that has come to them or that they have crafted, and for them it’s about a specific moment in time, say, but for you, it could take you anywhere and your experience of it is just as valid.
as the moment they were writing about and their experience of writing it. So, poetry to me, offers itself to you. You don’t have to know a darn thing about poetry or the poet or the actual subject to have a, a, a valid and moving an important experience with a poem. So I love urging people to just not, how do I put this?
Don’t stress about the poetry. poetry shouldn’t be a stressful thing. Not at all. Not at all. And yes, you can. You can delve more deeply and you can analyze and you can learn, and you can take a class about even just one poem or a body of work and get so much more from it. But whether you did that or not, your first experience of a poem is it can be something quite beautiful and it’s yours.
It’s. Whatever it is, it’s U-shaped. I love that U-shape. That’s perfect. I want to love poetry. I deeply want to love it and I just, I just haven’t gotten into it, but I, I love how you describe it and I love that it’s me shaped. That’s amazing. Who. Could we go to, if we were trying to explore poetry for the I, I don’t wanna say first time, but what are your poetry recommendations for folks like me who want to love it deeply, but just haven’t gotten to that love place yet?
Oh, yay. I’m in a real Mary Oliver place right now, and she’s someone that every time I bring her up to someone who knows her, the, the faces just light up and eyes and people sigh and go, yes, yes. She uses language very simply and it’s, there’s something very sort of Christine and Natural at once about how she writes and she’s very nature inspired, but very, very human and there’s not much hidden, you know, she writes a lot about a moment she’ll have.
Which is something, something very simple and that once profound, and I think any symbolism she plays with is not meant to be like, oh, really dug through and discovered. Like she really, she really puts it all out there, right there for you. And she’s very, she seems to me a very. People loving poets. Look, she’s someone I would highly recommend for people who aren’t sure if they like poetry or, or have been scared of it.
Thank you so much. I will put some links for Marie Oliver in our show notes so people can discover her. Yay. You have introduced me to the very awesome world of baby theater. Can you explain what that is? Yes. So , I call it baby theater. I think that’s what we, we call it in my house, but what I’m referring to is theater for very young audiences.
So it’s called, uh, TV Y A or TV y, or also early childhood theater or early years theater. It’s something that’s sort of so new in America that we don’t have one term for it yet, but it’s been happening abroad in Britain and Italy for 25, 30 years now already. But what this all refers to, Theater, so plays that are made for ages, say zero to six plays that are made for babies, even babies that you hold babies in arms that can’t even hold their heads up yet.
Or older babies or toddlers or very, very young elementary school kids. And there are still different ways to go about this. Some of these pieces involve. Oftentimes there’s some kind of song or music involved. They tend to be shorter for short attention fans, and they tend to be very multisensory, tactile, sort of experiences.
The company that I work with, arts on the Horizon, our method is non-verbal, so every piece is non-verbal, no words. Maybe they’ll be some sort of nonsense words here and there. Very, very multisensory and maybe about 20. Do you have any projects going on right now with Arts on the Horizon? I don’t in the immediate future, but I sort of always am cooking something up for them.
But within our household, my, my husband has something coming up next, which sounds awesome. It’s for two to five or two to six year olds, and it’s about junkyard rival robots. He’s working with a sound designer so that these robots sort of make sounds of music with things that are on them, on their bodies as well as things they find in the junkyard.
And they’re gonna engage the kids somehow, again, non-verbally, which is pretty neat, but sort of engage the kids in their rivalry and like the kids will sort of be split so that half the audience is on one robot’s side and the other half is on the other. And, and by the end, They’ve, they’ve switched pieces of themselves.
Uh, they’ve swapped things around. So they’re sort of, my understanding is they’re gonna be, uh, sort of a mix of each other and, and the best music that they make the entire time is when they work together. And everything in the play is gonna be upcycled materials, which is really cool and really special.
The last thing I did with them, Was for baby babies. It was for zero to two and it was called Space Bop, and I sort of got to kick off the year doing, this was the first piece that I created solo. Usually I work with, with my husband Matt, and directed by myself. So that was really exciting for me. It in it involved a clown and a beatboxer.
Journeying to space. Of course, it’s what you know. What else would you do the clown in a beatbox or send them to the heavens? And it was, uh, magic. I got to work with a, a wonderful local lighting designer as well as these two gentlemen who were my, my clown and my hip hop artists, and just making magic together for, for tiny ones.
I mean, and I cannot, I cannot, it’s hard to find the right words for how amazing that first moment of a baby show is when everyone in the. Suddenly realizes that the story has begun a hush falls over the babies. Being in a room of hushed babies whose big brand new eyes are all on the same thing for a moment, it is stunning.
When that first happened with Space Bop, I cried, and the play had just begun. It really is absolutely amazing. I 100% agree with you because I did get to see your one production, and intellectually I totally understood what was going to happen. You’d explain to me how involved and interactive it was going to be for them, but to see a.
Babe in arms understand that this was a play and that they were about to be engaged with. At one point, your character was offering materials for the young little babes to touch mm-hmm. . And to see a little babe know that I’m supposed to touch this right now and to reach out and touch it, interact with you, I was floored.
And to see the. Start to cry. Yeah. Was so moving. Oh, oh hell. Lovely. Hmm. Yeah. It really got me. It was good stuff. Good stuff. It’s good to see because you could see just how art can affect someone at a really, really young age. So it’s nice to see that this art form is developing in the United States. I really love it.
Oh, here, here, baby. I, I couldn’t be more excited and more, more thrilled and honored to. , uh, not just to be part of it, but to be, almost say, to be kind of at the forefront of it here in America. I mean, Matt and I are part of, we are original company members of the first company in the whole nation to focus on this age.
There are a few more now at this point, and there are, there are thankfully a good number of companies who do children’s theater in general for all ages of children and have a, a, a portion of their, like a sort. Side stage or something where they do work like this. But Arts on the Horizon is the first company in all of America to only focus on ages zero to six.
I mean, that, that, that feels really special to be part of. It’s very impressive. I’m definitely going to include links to Arts on the Horizon in the show notes so that everyone can get introduced to them and the great work that they’re doing. Now, you also do audience development for flying. , who was recently awarded to Helen Hayes Word.
Very exciting. Now they describe themselves as a theater for people who don’t like theater. Can you tell us what does that even mean? ? Yeah, they’re fun. Flying V also calls themselves like you’re local indie theater. They’ve got a real hip feel to them and they’re very, very genre based. So what they mean by that is, uh, they, they really, they love having the theater folk come see their work.
Of course, like, yes, please. Theater people are an amazing audience for theaters, . But what really excites them is reaching out to people who, who don’t think they like theater or don’t know a lot about it, or just never thought of like a play as a thing that they wanna go do for fun, right? So they’ll do that by doing pieces that are steeped in like pop culture.
We had a, a play that had a lot of wrestling in it. For me, it sort of works. It had the opposite effect. I know I love theater. I had no idea I gave a darn about pro wrestling, you know? And then I watched this show that had this, uh, whole vignette based on, uh, chain wrestling. It was a fight between a couple and this like form of wrestling was used.
To sort of symbolize like the emotional fight that was actually happening between them. And it was beautiful. I was floored and like in that moment I, I opened my heart and mind a little bit to like this whole other world I had never thought about. We really try to do the flip side of that, which is get the wrestling fans in and get the Indie Rock fans in and get the Sci-fi fans in and give them.
That is steeped in their worlds, the thing that excites them and marry that to theater. What, how can you have a theatrical experience that feels like a, like an old sci-fi, you know, or there’s something coming up that’s a Chekhovian version of Mario Brothers, or rather, a Mario Brothers version of a, a checkoff play.
Yes. I hope we get the checkoff fans, but for sure we’re really aiming to, to, to pull in those Mario Brothers fans, even if, even if what brings them. How the heck are they gonna do that? . Then we get them in there and we show them and by the end they go, oh my God, that was, that was awesome. Are you doing audience development for that Super Mario brother show?
Possibly. I, uh, I’m not certain yet. We don’t work quite that far out there, but I do, I am someone they ask to work with a lot. And what’s neat about them with the audience stuff is that’s something that they’re sort of trying to pioneer in the area. They. Position that they call the audience designer. So they actually, they make it a design position, which is really interesting.
So this is the first time in my life that I, I have to go to like production meetings, , like it’s a whole new world for, for someone who’s usually, you know, on the, on the writing or acting end of things, what that means to them is that my job is to find the, the most ideal. For a particular show that we’re doing, right?
So we’re doing this, uh, nineties mixtape show right now. Finding the ideal audience means working with marketing in a way to, to sort of reach out in engaging ways to find people out there in the area who would be excited By this, you know, maybe hitting up, like doing events in record stores or checking out any nineties nights that might happen.
Superhero bar crawl recently. You know, those kinds of things. Certain concerts where like those people, if they’re going to, that they would probably dig the heck out of this show. You know, people who are like, uh, excited by and feeling nostalgic for the nineties, especially the music of the nineties. So that’s one part of it.
And the other part of it is, Setting the audience primed for it once they’re in our space, so not even once they’re in the theater, but when they enter the lobby, to not have them just enter this sort of sterile waiting room until they go into the theater, but use that lobby time and space to start, start them engaging with.
The themes of, and the world of a show. So like we did this pirate show, right? This big kooky, beautifully written poet, poetical P piece, . And when you walked in the lobby was like a pirate. Tavern. We have concessions that include beer. So you really could sit there with a beer that we called your grog chat with your buddies while there’s all this pirate stuff around you.
And it just sort of gets you in a certain kind of mood and there are patches around that you could put on and things like that. And people are taking selfies. You know, I’ve done, I’ve done this kind of work. . Another company in town too. Another one that you mentioned I was a, a member of called the Hub Theater, a piece we did recently there.
I like to bring up because it. I think we found a neat way to engage people on a personal level, which is also very important. A lot of the shows that happen at Flying V have this really fun atmospheric thing that I can play with from the start in the lobby to get people in a playful place. But then you, I also wanna be looking for okay, but is then what is the deeper theme of the piece and how do I, in a, in a gentle way, way that people can, can engage to whatever level they want.
But how can I sort of start hitting at the heart of the. Too, so that by the time they even get into the theater, , they feel personally invested and then gosh, they’re just as open an audience as possible to receive this story, which is beautiful. At The Hub, we did this show called Inner Word, which is a lovely, lovely, painful moving piece, and there was a lot about words and loss, and you could even, this idea that you could lose language and how language fell short and what are the kinds of things that you could lose and then have to refind or maybe never.
In the lobby, you were asked to answer a simple question. What have you lost? There was like a close line set up as well as some open pieces of luggage, suitcases and things kind of around in this one section. And you had little slips of paper that you could use and there were already some that were clipped up to kind of give you an idea of what the question really was asking.
We had answers like, my favorite Teddy bear, you know, we had answers like, my hope answers like 20 pounds, you know, answers like my, my dream from childhood, you know, there I. It was beautiful and it ranged in death and meaning for people. And that was it. It was, it was a very simple exhibit, but it was so profound how people were willing to give us something right then and there.
And I think that act of giving suddenly makes the audience member a bit more vulnerable. So then they go into this space. A little bit more open and, and tingly and alive and implicated, but again, hopefully gently, so you know that knowing that they’ve just sort of given something to us and to anyone else who will walk by this space.
So then you’ve got these like open, tingly, vulnerable people that are all in a room together now that don’t know each other, that are about to witness this story and the space. Feels electric and that’s the, the, the beautiful ideal aim of this work that I get to do with the audience design. I’m very glad you brought up Hub because I’ve, uh, seen them come up on the Helen Hayes nomination so much recently and they have a pretty unique mission.
Can you share what that is with us? Oh, they make me so happy. There’s, we refer to plays at the Hub as Hub or Not Hub, and that’s how we choose plays and. You know, who’s a company member knows what that means. This play is hub. This play is not hub. Oftentimes that means that it has a bit of magic to it, but always, always that means that it has hope.
It doesn’t mean that it can’t be dark, you know, we’ve had hub plays deal with very heavy things and go to dark places for sure. But there has to be even a spark of hope by the end of the piece, and that’s something that’s actually quite important to the theater. And we won’t produce a show. That doesn’t have this hope, and I love that.
And what’s so funny is that’s a company that Matt and I are both a part of, uh, and Matt is actually the associate artistic director there. And we’ve, we had this discussion recently where we, we realized that since we’ve become parents, that has become even more important to us. It’s probably something that I always sought.
I don’t think it’s something that, especially when Matt was younger, he was totally fine with something being dark and then leave you in this dark place and ugh. But definitely now that he’s a father and we’re parents, we we’re just not as interested in that in work that leaves you, uh, off a cliff. So, so the hub is actually, um, a, a really important theater to us, this lovely mission of.
I know that you also teach. What has that experience been like for you? Oh my goodness, , this, this has surprised the credit of me. This has been one of the big, like, surprise turns my life has taken. I always thought that if I taught it would be little kids. And then as I got older and closer to teaching, being a, a possible thing that I could do, you know, a lot of actors, uh, theater people are also teaching artists.
I realized that I didn’t at all want to work with children in that way. I. Of doing theater for children, t y a children’s theater, having kids as my audience just fills something huge in me. I love that. But teaching them is quite different and I just felt unschooled in, in that kind of thing. And, and so I found myself, um, with the opportunity to teach adults.
And to my surprise, I love it. I love that work. I get to teach at, as you mentioned, at the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, and it’s sort of a, essentially it’s set up like a technical school for acting, right? It’s a one year certificate program, and then there’s an advanced program you can get into after that if you want.
So what I, what I do mostly for them is what we call rehearsal. , which means I take them through about five weeks of rehearsing a play. We have, uh, we do Shakespeare with them. We’ll do Greek. We do a, um, a piece called that we call the bug play, which is sort of the, the first piece that they do there, and it really gets them into their bodies and making big choices.
And, uh, the bug play and the Greek play are the, are the two that I tend to do mostly, but we take them through five weeks of analyzing the text. Getting their casting and starting to rehearse on their feet and getting off book and coming up with objectives and tactics and really playing actions on each other and making interesting choices.
That also makes sense. And then they sort of share how far they’ve come by the end of that five weeks with their peers, not until their very last semester there of the four semesters do they perform then in a theater, you know, for sort of an. Public audience, which is cool. But up until that point, we’re really just focusing on, on rehearsing and what that means, what the job means, you know, what it means to be an actor and what that practically is like.
And it’s, it’s been a, it’s filled a, a surprising place in my life that’s nnc. D a has become sort of a, home to me. Really? Uh, they hosted our baby shower and I didn’t even ask. They came to me and said, Hey, we’ve done this before for someone else, would you, do you have anyone to host your local shower?
Cause anybody didn’t have family here and that just meant so much. Um, so they’ve taken in my whole family. I mean, my first, gosh, when I had Charlie, I don’t even know. I should have kept track. I’m not sure how many classes I taught. with him strapped to me. They’ve proven to be this amazingly family friendly workplace.
So I, there are whole classes of students who have gone through nnc, d a with Tia, she Bassett and Little Charlie Bassett as their professors at some point. And I love that . But what’s so amazing about that place is it’s so diverse as far as backgrounds, as far as ages, and because of how it’s set up, you’ll get a lot of people who have already had.
career, you know, have almost had another life and then have come to this point where they realized, gosh, this is not at all what I’ve wanted to do with my life, or This is not what’s making me happy anymore. And do.dot, you know what, I’ve always, I’ve always been interested in acting and they find us, they just come from this really lovely place of being so grateful that they actually get to embark on this thing that was a, a dream for them, that they didn’t think they would get to do that.
They make these amazingly open, enthusiastic. and super interesting students, you know, to come in already with life, under their, under their belts and a whole other world that they’ve seen just can really enrich what they bring to us and to stories. And it’s beautiful for me to be around. You know, it, it’s a place I tend to work when I’m in between other kinds of theater gigs and it just keeps me, it keeps me.
It keeps me connected to our art. It keeps me excited about it and remembering over and over what I love about the art. It’s amazing that they let you bring Charlie to work. I think that that’s phenomenal, and I think a lot of women will be quite jealous when they hear that. Now, I know that you and your husband Matt, are both artists.
How does that work with raising your adorable son ? In some ways it works amazingly because we’re both Lance. Charlie so far has been raised by us with the occasional pinch hitting babysitter who tends to be an actor. So they’re great storytellers and vibrant, and they love playing with him. It’s awesome.
But Matt and I will really go back and forth with who’s the primary parent at home with Charlie? He’ll get a few weeks or months with me mostly. Working more and then he’ll get a few weeks or months that switch. And it’s Matt mostly. And you know, and then there are a few times when we, when we get to be, be home kind of equally, but in that way it’s pretty awesome and it’s amazing how well that has been able to work out for the most part.
What I find fascinating too, though, is thinking about, I, I was asked to do this in a, a grant recently, something about, um, this organization was a sustainable arts foundation. I wanna say they give these sustainable arts. To creators who are parents also. And one of the things they ask you is how has your, how has being a parent affected your art negatively or positively?
And I loved having to reflect on that because there are both aspects to it. Absolutely. And I think that’s, Fascinating. Like I, I have a, I have this friend who’s a painter, and she, she also has a family and she’s always wanted a family, and she’s an amazing mom. But she has this little, she has a studio in her house, and when that door is closed, the whole family knows they do not knock.
Only in case of an emergency will they knock. So she has this sort of imposed her time, her artist time at home that she needs. And that’s the thing that she. Helps her to be able to balance these two things. But on the other hand, what I love is that her work has got to be different now that she’s a mom versus beforehand.
Right. I feel it in, I feel it in my own art. There are places that I can go now that I, I couldn’t before my son on the other hand. There are places that I refuse to go now because of my son like that, like us discussing, you know, how we, we have to have hope in a piece. That probably means that there are, and I’ve talked to some other actress moms about this too.
There are stories that I wouldn’t be interested in telling any longer that maybe I would’ve told before being a mother or thinking about being a mother. So it’s funny how like there are things that it will cut, cut, cut out from you, but also whole places that it will open up for you, as with I think, any huge change in your life, you know, anything that is gonna color your life differently from that point on just has to be in dialogue with your art.
There’s, there’s no other way. I’m not Tia the person and Tia the mom and Tia the creator. I’m, I’m Tia . I just happen to do all these things. You know, so they’re always speaking to each other. We talked about Arts on the Horizon. Charlie’s been part of creating work there. Matt and I were, were already involved in that company before we got pregnant.
Since having Charlie, he’s been our Guinea pig, you know, and we were able to do our first piece. For the younger end, our first piece for zero to two, because, uh, we started developing it when Charlie was in that age range and we were watching him and learning from him and learning about baby development and milestones and that we were very much steeped in that world, so then we could, we could make this piece, you know, for babies.
And I didn’t know a darn thing about babies before I had one , you know, so that’s an, I got to do this whole project essentially, because I suddenly knew, I knew what it. To be around an infant and a, a, a, a growing new human. Now, has it ever happened that both you and Matt got offered awesome projects at the same time and you couldn’t take both?
Did you do some sort of rock, paper, scissors, ? We’ve, we’ve, l i I have lucked out in that we tend to go first, come first served here in my household. So, for instance, I had something already on. And Matt got offered a directing gig that he was interested in for that timeframe when I would’ve been doing my thing and they, there would’ve been just a difficult overlap.
It would’ve needed a lot of childcare, so he turned his down. That’s amazing. I, you know, it’s not lost on me that that was really, really cool and generous and I’m really lucky and grateful to have a partner. who is okay with, you know, and embraces having to, having to balance these things. You know, we both still have our careers and I’d say they’re, they’re actually both in really exciting places right now.
But we do alre, we already have, and we know we still will have to turn things down now and again because it’s not just the two of us because there’s this tiny little being that needs. Some adult , uh, to be around him all the time. Now, this might be a little bit like the pot calling the kettle black, but I know that you’ve done a lot of personal enlightenment work since you and I have been friends and you have chilled out quite a lot.
what I, I know it’s true. I, I need to get where you are, but what would your advice be for someone. Like me, let’s say, who might be a bit high strung? Uh, that makes me think of two things. Number one, I had a friend within the past year say something to me that like, it’s probably written in books. I’ve probably heard, maybe I’ve heard it even other times of my life.
I don’t know, maybe I haven’t, but like him saying this, When he did to me, struck me, he said that you choose stress. And I had honestly never thought that before. I thought stress was a thing that automatically happened to you. When things got tough or overwhelming or like stress, then you’re, you know, you’re beset with stress as opposed to like stopping and realizing, oh, oh no, no, wait.
Stress. My chosen reaction to what has happened, you know, or what is happening or what my schedule looks like, or, you know, that was stupidly eye-opening for me. And I started realizing that I had this habit of stress and I didn’t. A habit is something that you can break, you know? And so I haven’t, you know, I haven’t completely broken.
It’s going may, may never happen, but I’m working on that and that feels awesome, just. and it’s really just about like stopping yourself in the moment and saying, okay, do I have to have my shoulders all in a bunch right now? Because if I do, that actually is not helping the situation at all. I’m only hurting me, you know?
So to realize I’ve got this habit that only hurts me and doesn’t make situations better, it then becomes something that is quite easy to want to try to get rid of. And then the, the second thing, This year began and I decided that it was going to be about empowerment for me. And what that meant was I was sick of being someone who called themselves an actor and was trying to only act and, and feeling like I could only do what I loved to do and what I wanted to do for a living in the, you know, I could only engage with these gifts I feel that I have if other people let me.
Right? An actor can feel very much like they need to be given permission to act. I need to be. In something. And I realized that that was a big source of stress and depression for me, was this feeling of not being in control of my life, of my career, uh, of my happiness. You know, my happiness is so tied to, to being an artist.
So I said, screw that for this year, and it’s been an amazing year. So what it has meant, practically speaking, is that I realized. Conservatory. I work at, for instance, they offer rehearsal space. There’s, there’s just a perk I get for working there. If there’s a studio and they have, they have a couple of studios there, if there’s a studio that’s not being used, I can use it.
I met someone who wanted to collaborate on a piece with me. She had an idea and I said, great, I’ve got a space. And we started meeting, you know, as frequently or as infrequently as. Possible with our ever shifting schedules, but like slowly but surely, we’re making this piece and it felt delicious to just engage with my art and collaborate with another person on my own freaking terms.
You know, like, it really helps. It’s easy for us to feel like, you know, like if the tree falls in a forest, does anyone hear it? If an actor isn’t acting, are they still an actor? It’s easy to, it’s easy to start to feel like maybe you’re not, because there can be these really sizable gaps in, in your career.
It’s just, it’s just the nature. You know, it depends on your type and your market and, and your equity status and so many other things. So, yeah, so I, I took matters into my own hands this year, and I’m like, , I feel like I’m outside of myself watching myself. I’m really proud of myself for that. Like I’m really proud of.
Of little, little Tia there for making this decision and for, for acting on it, you know? So this year has just been so full for me. I’ve done things like, uh, I had a friend come in from Chicago and we had a day, you know, we just hopped a, a piece that had been living in her brain for a day in a studio, and I don’t know what’ll come of it.
But it felt, it felt awesome and something happened in that day, in that work, and we’re both richer for it. You know, these, some of these pieces might be seen, might be shown to the wide world and some of them might not ever get there. And that’s also okay because through all of it, I feel like an artist and I’m making things and that fuels me and gives me more to bring home to my family.
Cuz this is, this is my. You know, so I’m a, I’m a better, more engaged, more awake mother and, and friend and person in the world and all of that will make me, make me a stronger artist when I am utilized in that way for the public. So empowerment. It’s, it’s been my compass this year. What would you say is the biggest assumption that people make about you?
I think it used to be that I’m always happy and people only think that because I get really happy around people, , but it means that when I’m not around people on my own, I’m, I can be very serious and even, um, a bit, um, solid and melancholy, you know? Uh, but that used to be the assumption. And I think the new one is that I must be a really energetic parent and.
Ethically not true. Like . I would love to be and I wish I was, but I actually do a fair amount of my parenting from the couch because I’m tired. , my kid is so spirited and amazing and thankfully he like, I don’t know if he just was born like this or if he’s sort of adapted to me or our house or whatever it is, but he can, he can entertain himself for long chunks of time.
Awesome. But yeah, I think, I think people think like, oh, I’m always up and playing with him and stuff and, and, um, no. I really try to like be the one who’s on the couch and either coercing him over to snuggle with me or just watching him from afar and like maybe throwing thing, throwing little prompts at him so he can play his game.
Now, what would your thoughts be for a woman who wants. To continue her artistic career and also be a mom. You and I have talked about this before and the, the word allow comes to mind for me. I think there needs to be so much generosity to yourself. Right? And another way I think of that is, is that you’re allowing allow for there to be this huge shift in your life, you know?
And, uh, That needs to be made peace with, but also allow for the fact that you’re still, the thing you always were. I, I know it from an artist’s standpoint, but for me, thinking of myself as, as both a mom and an artist and allowing those two things to be, to be singular. and also to be in dialogue with each other.
You know, like we mentioned earlier, that’s been something that when I can hit that, when I can be in that place where I allow for the fact that, you know, I might be trying to write, uh, work on a script in the corner and suddenly I’m, I’m needed by this. By my little three year old . When I can, when I can be okay with that and go see what he needs and un and understand that, that doesn’t mean my work isn’t getting done, but rather what I go over here and do with him, whatever, loving or.
Disciplinary or exploratory way in which I’m engaging with him, there, uh, happens, there’s still something cooking in my brain, right? That that script isn’t gone. It’s not like, well, there’s that. I’m not gonna get that done. Being an artist is, it’s the same thing as being a human in the world. You’re just trying to pin things down.
You know? Being an artist means being a human that’s trying to, uh, find a way to reflect humanity back to itself. You know, finding a way to, to put words and image. To what it means to be a human. So the two things, art artists and parents aren’t in conflict with each other and em embracing that. Allow, allow, allow.
What is the one takeaway you want people to get from this podcast? Thinking about right now, my brain is working back over the all the lovely things we’ve talked about that mean. that means so much to me personally. But I think what ties a lot of it together is, well, it may, maybe it’s this last idea, you know, is this idea of allowing, like we, we started by talking about being, being an actor versus, uh, acknowledging that I actually do a lot of things and I should celebrate that.
So I’m a theater artist, you know, as opposed to being this, this one thing that I, and I feel like I need to hide the other parts, you know? So allowing the many things that you are to be at play in your life and allowing them to inform each other and allowing for the fact that everything, your life and your art will just be the richer will just be the richer for your seeing.
The possibility of a greater picture and not, not worrying to make it so, but understanding that it’s already there. All these things I am, they’re all one C waves on this, on this one C. It’s one beautiful thing. I know you are an avid reader. , is there a book you wanna shine a light on and get more people reading?
Oh my gosh. So I have this great new friend who gave me a novel called Pulling Out. So I get the name right, the Raw Shark Text by Stephen Hall. And even though I had rehearsal today, I stayed up till like two in the morning reading this because I couldn’t put it down. Tia Sheira Bassett, you were supposed to.
Ben, I know . I know, I know, I know. I had, I, we did the filming today and I had these bags under my eyes. . I was like, I hope no one asks, but yeah, no, no, it’s because I was up obsessed with a book. I’m not even terribly far in it, but it’s so interesting, so interesting. The raw shark texts, and I’m gonna say what she said, which is like, don’t even, don’t read anything about it.
Just, just get it. If you , if you’re someone who like, who loves novel, That’s it. That’s all. That’s the only pre-req you need for a mama of a three-year-old who is working on a show and, and, uh, doing a film shoot to read a book till 2:00 AM it has to be good. So I will take you up on that. Yay. now, what’s coming up next for you?
Ooh, so what I’m rehearsing right now, actually what I’m currently on, on break from to, to chat with you, which is awesome, is a beautiful play at Imagination Stage. It’s a, it’s a piece called The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. It’s for kids for like older elementary school, and it’s based on a book, also a beautiful book.
I will put that in as a recommendation as well. A book by Kate d Camillo by the same name, the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and it’s about a China Rabbit. So like a toy, a toy rabbit who learn, uh, essentially who learns to love, but he’s not a puppet the way, the way he’s portrayed in this play, there are four storytellers and I get to be one of those, and one of those storytellers is a musician, so he’s got a guitar.
And at a certain point when we mention that the rabbit has his thoughts, the musician starts speaking, Edward Tulane’s. And that’s it. That’s the convention is that the kids will get to hear what the rabbit is thinking throughout. But the rabbit, much, much like a child, actually is quite powerless. The rabbit can’t move himself through the world.
He gets moved. He sort of gets buffeted around to different families and sees different ways of life and goes through things with, with all these different people on this huge journey. We’ve, we’ve read through it a few times and we’re starting to stage it, but every time we get to the end, there’s not a dry eye, you know, , like, it’s, there’s this like group of adults who know the play.
We know what’s going to happen, including the director who, who’s been with the piece for months and months and months, you know, but like, it just hits us every time. It’s just such a well constructed story and such a, a brave and honest story with a bunny at the heart of it, like, That is, that is what I love about children’s theater and children’s literature, right to the truth in ways that you wouldn’t think you wouldn’t expect.
I will definitely put a link for both your production as well as that book in our show notes. Now, how can people get in touch with you if they wanna connect? Yay. I love connecting. That’s delicious. I have a, a gmail. This is my, this is my fancy account, my other account. A silly name, so I’ll give you my, my professional account here.
It’s theater tia, t h e a t r e t i a gmail.com. It would be awesome to hear from people. I’m also on Twitter. I, I don’t do that often, but if, you know, if they’re a little like tidbits that people wanna share. I love hearing about poetry, I love hearing about theater. I love hearing about baby theater and just engaging in convers.
About these different arts that just lights me up. I’m super famous. Tia , all one word, uh, on Twitter. Super famous Tia, and you are super famous, Tia . It’s true. Thank you so much for doing this interview. I think it is. Absolutely lovely to spend time with you, and I love you madly, and I really appreciate you sharing your insights with us.
Oh my goodness. It’s absolutely been my pleasure. My, my face hurts right now from smiling, talking to you, uh, and talking about literally my favorite things. Thank you for doing this. This is what a stunningly beautiful thing to have something dedicated to, to what you’re calling notable women. I’m honored, honored to be among them, but I absolutely am right there beside you in wanting to celebrate that you know, the, the ladies who are making their mark in all these different ways and, and categories and venues.
Thank you for. You know, this is pretty killer. Gosh, I love me some Tia time, and I hope you enjoyed our conversation. She’s got such light energy to her, and I’m always in awe of her beautiful, creative life. The show notes are full with specific links to all the great theaters, authors, and books Tia mentioned.
This is the first in my opening series. Next, I’ll be chatting with Julian Morgan, lender about chronic illness, and then Reverend Lorraine Peterson about faith and hardship for now, peace.