Tai Amy Grauman is Metis, Cree and Haudenosaunee from Alberta, and an actor, playwright and emerging director.
From a young age, Tai dreamed of acting. She attended UBC to receive BFA in Acting with a minor in First Nations Studies. Her acting accolades are plentiful; she powerfully moves an audience.
The impact of COVID has undoubtedly marked the theatre world both in terms of practice and philosophy. Tai’s most recent work, Mary’s Wedding - which she adapted and starred in - premiered virtually at the Citadel Theatre in late 2020 (and will premier to a live audience in 2021!). Her resilience and commitment to her craft inspires us.
Tai is using her ambition and talent to create space for herself, women and Indigenous representation in Alberta’s theatre community.
Photo by Emilie Iggiotti
How did your relationship with acting begin?
My relationship with acting began after watching "Peter Pan" at the Citadel when I was 9 years old. I grew up in Ardrossan and was absolutely starstruck and dazzled by the whole idea of live theatre after watching that production.
When I was 12, my mom started taking me to Foote Theatre School classes and that is where I began my practice. Then I did lots of high school drama and from there got a BFA in Acting. Performing on the Citadel stage has also always been a dream of mine and I'm so thrilled that dream actualized in a show I adapted and a role I've always wanted to play. I can't remember when "acting" and the dream of theatre haven't been present in my life, it is always something I have wanted.
Who are some women who have impacted your life the most?
Madelaine McCallum and Andrea Menard are the names that come to mind–both powerful Metis women who are leaders, healers and artists. Maddie is my chosen sister, Andrea is my chosen auntie and they are continually guiding me further along my path and closer to my power. They have taught me to approach all things with love, kindness and generosity. They constantly remind me that my stories are important, need to be heard, and have really influenced my theatrical focus on creating work with Metis women's love stories. I don't ever think I will be able to thank them enough for everything they have given me.
What impact do your Indigenous roots have on the work that you do?
My Metis stories and my people are present in everything I do. They are always fully present in my work and never feel separate from myself or the theatrical work I am creating (even when participating in non- Indigenous theatre). I’m unable to leave my ancestors, experiences or stories "outside" when entering a room–they walk with me and are fully present in every show I work on. And so when asked about impact, my Indigeneity is the centre of why I do what I do and has a profound impact in all the work I create.
In Mary's Wedding, I actually gave the characters my family names (Beauregard and Callihoo) and I gave Charlie pick-up lines that have been said to me by Metis men. I based my adaptation in my family's realities and stories which made the show feel incredibly personal. As my family's stories haven't been told on Canadian stages yet, this feels vital and I'm at a point where I'm becoming less and less interested in participating in work that doesn't come from my heart. My roots and everything.
Photos by Emilie Iggiotti
What have been the biggest challenges in turning Mary’s Wedding into a virtual production?
The impact Covid has had on my work as a theatre artist has at times felt insurmountable. To not be able to work in rooms with other artists, witness a show or have an audience is absolutely heartbreaking. The biggest challenge was my own heartbreak of not having an audience.
But the good news is that we are still doing a run of the show in the New Year! As soon as provincial guidelines allow, my team and I will be back. After filming the production, we literally just left everything in place on stage and in our dressing rooms so that we can come back and pick the show up again in two days. So although I was heartbroken, I'm happy Mary and Charlie get to live for longer in my heart and that I get another chance to play Mary for Edmonton audiences.
What is one thing you’re excited about for 2021?
I am excited to do Mary's Wedding for a live audience!
Photo by Emilie Iggiotti