The Fascinating Being
It is so important for young girls to understand that there is no shame in being themselves
by Tanisha Taitt
Tanisha Taitt is an actor/director/playwright, singer-songwriter, arts educator and activist. She began directing in 2007 and has helmed 21 productions of 14 plays. She is Program Director of Acting Up Stage's One Song Glory youth training program, Director of Children's Peace Theatre's summer Peace Camp program, and a former Resident Artist Educator with Young People's Theatre. Recent productions include Shadowpath Productions' The White Rose, bare for Toronto Youth Theatre and The Power Of Harriet T! for YPT. For six of the last seven years she has been Producer of V-Day Toronto, the local campaign in the global movement to end violence against women and girls. A 2013 Haroldee, Ms Taitt is a two-time YWCA Woman of Distinction Award nominee for her commitment to artistic excellence and social justice.
Yes, I view it as privilege to be someone's first director.
Working on this show has been heartwarming. I started my theatre career, both as an actor and as a director, in the world of monologues. I fell in love with V-Day, the international movement to end violence against women and girls, founded by Eve. Her play The Vagina Monologues was the first show I ever acted in, as part of V-Day, and subsequently the first show I ever directed. Almost eight years later I am still passionate about bringing V-Day productions to the stage because they have such powerful things to say. I haven't worked on a monologue-heavy piece in awhile though -- since 2011 -- so to return to a show like this one is a delight. It's such a different beast. I love the fact that Emotional Creatures is a combination of scenes and monologues, which are two totally different forms of storytelling, but that we can move back-and-forth between them so easily within the same script. It's also a unique experience directing non-actors, which I've had the privilege of doing in the past. Yes, I view it as privilege to be someone's first director. And a responsibility. V-Day productions draw a combination of seasoned actors and neophytes to audition based on an attraction to the cause, which is E-beautiful.
The idea of a play that focuses on what it is to be a girl seems like a very simple premise, which may lead people to think it is simplistic. It isn't at all. The inner life of girls is so, so complex. We live in a patriarchal world that has taught them – has taught all of us in fact – that our innate emotionality is unwanted and excessive. We try hard and manage to stomp much of this display of emotion out of boys when they are very young; anger is allowed but sadness, confusion, insecurity – not so much. (What we do to boys breaks my heart just as much but for a different reason.) But emotionality is not stomped out of girls which, for the males who dominate our society, makes things a tad inconvenient. You tend to hear terms like 'hysterical' and 'drama queen' thrown around a bit too much and in doing so we invalidate the very real experiences of girls and women. YES, we feel deeply. We will be very upset, very happy, very excited, very angsty... that's how we're built. That's how people are built, but girls tend to not bury it, and as a result are taught that to simply be who they were built to be is problematic. Heaven forbid a boy 'cry like a girl' or 'throw like a girl' or do anything like a girl.To be 'like a girl' means to be less than. It means to cross the centre line and drift over into the realm of the inferior.This play says that no, that is simply the realm of the real.
Where there is this disconnect – this inability to feel the heart of the other or even our own – how can that not be fertile ground for hostility? In a culture in which we teach boys that the most shameful and loathsome things about them are the parts of themselves that are in any way 'feminine' (a huge problem unto itself), how does that not manifest as a culture in which women are resented and subsequently victimized? We are so afraid of those who feel deeply and express it openly. We as a society are afraid of any emotion that is not easily describable or recognizable, and certainly of any emotion that takes us to a place of instability. This feeling we have that we need to be sure all the time, that to be confused is to be fickle or to be nervous is to be weak or to be scared is to be female... that is profoundly destructive.