Thursday, August 11, 2016

Spotlight On...Tasha Nicole Partee

Name: Tasha Nicole Partee

Hometown: Currently New York, New York. Originally Richmond, Virginia. Both are home!

Education: M.A. in Educational Theatre (NYU), BFA in Theatre Education (Virginia Commonwealth University)

Favorite Credits: I am fortunate to have worn a lot of hats in theatre (many of them simultaneously, though, which can be quite the challenge if you only have one head). My favorite acting credit has to be a recent production of The Iceman Cometh with the Hudson Guild Theatre Company, in which I played Cora. For dance, my time as a Baltimore Ravens Cheerleader was life changing. For teaching and directing school theatre, it would be a tie between Willy Wonka and a fabulous little play called Attack of the Pom Pom Zombies. For choreography, it would be A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Onomatopoeia Theatre Company. And as for writing, it’s Mrs. Schrodinger’s Cat, my first full-length play.

Why theater?: Theatre is tangible. It’s connection. It requires face-to-face interaction. It lives and breathes because of dialogue and the many forms communication with another human being can take. I can’t put into words how necessary I think theatre is. My senior year of high school, we were given the gift of a new drama teacher. The drama kids were proud but few until she arrived, and through her humor and enthusiasm, she built this entire community of performers and crew members and kids who didn’t actually do anything but still wanted to be there. We did Ducktails and Bobbysox that spring. It was our Grease. I loved the community she created, and I became a drama teacher because of her. With my own students, our classroom is a family room. I’ve been teaching theatre for the better part of fifteen years in many contexts, but the one thing that never changes is the connection my kids feel, the being part of something. It’s something I try to create with my casts now as I move into writing and directing outside of classrooms. My fantastic voyage in theatre began before the i-age. Looking back, I know I didn’t understand just how precious and sacred those experiences of togetherness were. Now, I value them even more. On social media, anyone can post an idea or a rant, in isolation, and even have the ability to block others from commenting. Misunderstandings run amok. Tone and intent are misinterpreted. Human beings are dehumanized, and dialogue becomes optional. This is why I think theatre is necessary. It never lets us forget we are human.

Tell us about Mrs. Schrodinger’s Cat: Mrs. Schrodinger's Cat follows a group of women as they learn of a local art gallery's unsettling new exhibit: anonymous photographs taken surreptitiously of people in their small town. With the identity of the photographer and the subjects of the photos still in question, and with the potentially humiliating ramifications of such an exhibit weighing heavily on their minds, the women unite for a summer night’s escapade to face the sad, funny, beautiful truth. Raising questions about image, perception, entitlement, and art, Mrs. Schrodinger's Cat ultimately asks what it means to know another person, and the extent to which we ever really can. The cast and creative team for the show are phenomenal. We performed last summer as part of Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s Spring Play Development Series, and coming back to it this summer with fresh eyes for the New York International Fringe Festival has been such a unique and rewarding experience. We’ve been able to make so many new discoveries with the characters, and we’ve been able to dig so much deeper with the text. Sometimes I forget I wrote the darn thing. We can’t wait to share it with our audiences in August!

What inspired you to write Mrs. Schrodinger’s Cat?: I am intrigued by paradoxes and thought experiments. You can give yourself a good headache when you want to with it all! Or, if you’re married to a former philosophy major (as I am), you can just pour a glass of wine and enjoy some lively conversation. My husband and I were driving to Virginia a few years ago and got to talking about Schrödinger’s Cat and the observer’s paradox. We were not drinking wine at this time, just to be clear. The questions Schrödinger’s Cat raises about the observer’s affect on the observed reminded me of a piece that had been in the news recently about an NYC photographer who had taken pictures of his neighbors in their apartments across the way from his own, without their knowledge or consent. When the photographs were later exhibited, there was a lot of controversy. One side argued it was invasion of privacy. The other side argued artistic license. Courts became involved, lawsuits filed, privacy laws cited. It was fascinating and unsettling to me, and it raised even more interesting questions. While I thought the photographs were beautiful and the photographer’s defense of his work both poignant and haunting, I could absolutely sympathize with the subjects of the photos and see why people would be upset about it. Above all, I began to wonder what the actions of the photographer, his subjects, and the community as a whole reflect about a culture in which it is commonplace to put one’s life on display, or at least the best shots. With all of these questions in my mind, all of which I thought were important and worth discussing, Mrs. Schrodinger’s Cat began to develop. I fictionalized the situation, imagining it occurring in a much smaller town, but I attempted to give a human and equal voice to all sides of the issue. I do not try to provide any answers with this play, though. Just, hopefully, some good material for lively discussions. Wine optional.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Questions inspire me, first and foremost. To authentically explore a question through theatre results in rich characters, great dialogue on stage, and, perhaps most importantly, conversation off stage among audience members on their way home from a show. I love theatre that asks questions rather than that which tries to provide answers. I also love theatre that intrigues and mystifies and makes the audience work a little to piece things together. This probably comes from my affinity for Dateline, the ID Channel, and all things mystery. Add in humor—as I wholeheartedly believe in the unique ability of humor to reach people—and you’ve got the perfect combination, in my book. If Dateline were funnier, I’d probably never leave my couch.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: I secretly dream of a Vince Gilligan production of Mrs. Schrodinger’s Cat. We are actually from the same hometown, so clearly he would understand me. And though it’s not meant to be, Nora Ephron. She inspires me every day.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I can’t say enough good things about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Also, I got to see Hamilton last summer, but whenever I go to recommend it to friends, I feel guilty. Like, “Go see this, if you win the lottery.” It makes me feel like a chump. But obviously, it’s amazing! Play lotto!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: It’s set in my future and would be called, “Still Going.” It stars the oldest living actress at the time, playing me just kind of being happy and looking back at all the fun I had in theatre. I become an astronaut at the end.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I really regret that I didn’t get to see The Father recently. I’d also love to go back in time and see the original Sweet Charity, though I cannot wait for Sutton Foster’s upcoming performance!! I would have loved to have seen Kevin Spacey as Hickman in The Iceman Cometh. And as long as I’m in this time machine, I’d like to hit “pause” so I can catch the million shows I want to see before they close this fall.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: 1960’s folk music. The hippier, the better. My childhood was spent listening to this type of music on tapes in my dad’s car as we’d drive around for hours, not really going anywhere. It was magical.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be____?: Listening to 1960’s folk music on tapes, driving around for hours, not really going anywhere. I might also be an astronaut at this point, as that was my childhood dream. Before I found theatre.

What’s up next?: I’ve got a short piece in The New York New Works Theatre Festival in August! It’s called In a Vision, or in None. The cast is outstanding, and I am very excited about it. My hope is to expand it into a full-length play over the next year. There may or may not be a cat in this one, as well…

For more on Mrs. Schrodinger's Cat, visit