Monday, 7 June 2021

COMING HOME: Tanisha-Mae Brown, about to head off on tour with Chicago the Musical

Pocket Size Theatre and Liza Heinrichs (Captured by Liz) have teamed up again and created our new series 'Coming Home'. In this new piece, we look at the reopening of Theatres in London and around the country and celebrate our industry coming back. We got together some performers who will be some of the first to return to theatres and created this piece to bring some positivity to the theatre industry which has been through one of the toughest years in our lifetime. Whilst it is important to acknowledge the hardships we've all gone through, it's important we pull together as a community and celebrate our beloved industry finally coming back! 

The theatre industry has been hit incredibly hard over the pandemic. Performers, creatives and freelancers across the whole entertainment industry have been affected hugely, but a group of people who the industry has pulled together to try and help are the 2020 graduates. Coming into this industry is usually an exciting and scary thing, but for those who entered it during this pandemic, I can’t even begin to imagine what it felt like to come into an almost destitute industry. 

Tanisha-Mae Brown graduated from the Arts Educational Schools last year and although it's been a challenging time for theatre, she has thrived and has an exciting future ahead of her. She was featured in the Garden Theatre production of Pippin last summer playing Catherine. The theatre was built in a pub garden and was one of the first to open up with live productions. Her next venture will be on the UK tour of the smash-hit musical, Chicago. Our photoshoot with her took place at the Cambridge Theatre, one of the many homes to Chicago in its time in London. 

When talking to Tanisha-Mae, she spoke about how much she’s changed over the past 12 months; “I’ve grown so much since coming out of drama school a year ago and have learnt many valuable lessons that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my career. I think this pandemic has thought me patience and gratitude and that nothing is ever set in stone, situations can always change and it’s about adapting to it no matter how hard.” To get through the past year she has been working in schools and at a COVID testing centre. Although she shares how she’s had to adapt to the career she’s been trained to do not existing, she’s actually loved the jobs she’s done over the past year. To her, they’ve been very rewarding, especially seeing children learn and expand their imaginations at such an important age. “It’s been challenging to work in a field that’s not the one you’ve worked years to get to but it makes me even more determined to succeed and achieve what I’ve worked so hard for.” 

Something positive that has come out of the past year is people feel confident to speak out about the injustices in our industry. We of course spoke to Tanisha-Mae about this and she talked about how it was the Black Lives Matter movement that affected her the most. “The events that occurred sparked many a conversation, one large one was the discrimination that happens within our industry. It was very eye-opening and frustrating to hear the stories of actors and performers that for many years have faced injustice, prejudice and outright racism from the industry I love so dearly. Seeing people speak out and share their experiences made me reflect and question my own journey and look back at things I had faced that I just brushed under the carpet and let go. I soon realised the amount of micro-aggressions I myself had experienced.” She looks on this with a really positive attitude and whilst she acknowledges there is a long way to go, it's really nice to hear someone speak about the positives that have come from this; “I think going forward it would be great to see this continue to grow and watch more actors from all different races, religions and cultures thrive in the arts.” 

Being a 2020 graduate it's clear she knows first hand what the struggle has been like. Although she has been lucky to have worked last year in Pippin and to be going on tour soon, her peers may not be in such a good position. We asked her what her advice would be to others and she talked about how we all need to take the weight off our shoulders and allow fate to work its magic. “Stop putting so much pressure onto situations that are out of your control! The hard work always pays off! Even though it’s difficult to see why things happen in the moment don’t get bogged down, know it all happens for a reason just keep pushing forward. You got this!” 

When talking to Tanisha-Mae about which show she’d like to see when they all start to reopen she said she’d love to go back and see Wicked, she saw the show for her 12th Birthday and she tells us it was “the show that made me fall in love with musical theatre.” We agree with her on that one, what a special night that’ll be at the Apollo Victoria! Imagine the response when Glinda says “Its good to see me, isn’t it?!” 

Chicago opens its doors on the 10th September 2021 at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow, before heading out on a UK tour. Tanisha-Mae Brown will be in the ensemble of the show and we cannot wait to see this one. An absolute classic in the musical theatre world, it's great to see such a legendary show come back! 

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