I’m Tonya, and I have been working as a freelance actor, teacher, and fight choreographer since moving to Pittsburgh in 2003. Like so many of us in the arts, this also means that there is a necessary “day job”– since I really enjoy frivolous things like food and shelter–so between my office work and theater work I keep a pretty full schedule.
I got my taste for outdoor theater in college while working on a couple of outdoor productions as a student, and I’ve loved Shakespeare since my seventh grade teacher took me to see a local production–so when I learned about PSIP, I immediately got involved–and have worked in some capacity on every production since. It’s been a great opportunity to become familiar with some of the wonderful green spaces in Pittsburgh–although I’m still not a fan of the mosquitoes which show up at dusk during rehearsals. And I’m pretty sure that the sledding hill in Frick Park gets steeper every year, if my weary calves are any indication. Would I trade it for an air-conditioned theater? Not a chance! You can see plenty of that around here (all of the great theater is one of the things I love about Pittsburgh), and PSIP is a unique, challenging experience for actors, and a surprisingly intimate and personal experience of the play for the audience–all in a beautiful natural environment. I can put up with a few mosquitoes for that!
This year I have the rare opportunity to play Caliban, a native of Prospero’s island and his unwilling servant. Our production is unusual in having a female Caliban–as a character actress, I’m quite looking forward to this once-in-a-lifetime chance to portray this fascinating and complex character. Exploring the impact which the change of gender has on Caliban’s relationships with other characters in the play opens up some intriguing new layers and interactions, while still maintaining the core conflicts and desires which motivate the character. I’m lucky in that I’ve worked with many of the other actors in this cast previously, and am delighted to work with them again. It’s wonderful to walk into a first rehearsal and already have a level of trust and friendship with your castmates. I also get the treat of meeting some actors whom I have not worked with before–and sharing experiences as you build a performance together is always a great treat!