Meet the Educators: Tonya I.
Meet Tonya! Tonya brings a distinct passion for building a more sustainable, equitable, and just world to her work at Speak About It.
Tonya is a recent graduate from Vassar College who is joining Speak About It for the first time. At Vassar she majored in sociology and drama, and worked hard to make campus a greener and more sustainable place. A member of team Red Balloons this summer, she brings her passion for social justice and dyanamic energy to the stage.
Tonya is no stranger to using theater for social change. In high school she toured other local high schools and middle schools doing a show about depression and suicide. Says Tonya, “It was doing that work in high school that made me believe that peer education is so valuable when fighting these difficult issues. I really jumped at the opportunity to do it again with Speak About It after college.”
We chatted with Tonya before she left for tour last month. Get to know her a little more below!
Hey Tonya! First things first: Any real or goofy nicknames?
My family calls me Toni but that’s about it. I’ve been called T-Bone and Toni Baloney in the past though, which I find ironic because I’m vegan!
So you were a theater major, why do you think theater is an important vehicle for Speak About It’s work?
We all love being entertained, don’t we? I think a lot of learning can happen through entertainment. Theater embodies these topics in a way that makes the discussion a little less stuffy and formal while at the same time making it more intimate and deep. Theater demands vulnerability and bravery, and to talk about issues like consent, we require both.
You’re on tour which can be pretty intense. What is your favorite self-care practice?
I think an easier question would be what isn’t! Sleep, cooking, meditation, and massage definitely are high up on the list though.
If you had to give a TED talk on something, what would it be?
I taught a student seminar at my college my junior year titled “Living Consciously by your Conscience,” which was basically just 4 short sessions of me demonstrating ways to be kinder to yourself and others, and being more mindful of the things we consume in our daily lives, primarily through food and the waste we produce. I think my TED talk would be a condensed version of that, since I find that so many of us forget the potential we have as individuals to make positive impacts every single day with our actions.
If you had a super-power, what would it be, and why?
I would want to teleport—mainly to reduce my carbon footprint!
What is something you’re super proud of? Don’t be humble.
For my senior project in Drama at Vassar I played Lenny in Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart, which is set in a kitchen. On opening night I came in for a scene where I was supposed to be fuming—and clearly, I was, because I slammed the door so hard that it sent a 15-inch ceramic platter on the top shelf tumbling down which crashed and shattered EVERYWHERE on the floor. The audience totally lost it and I was frozen like a deer in headlights for a moment before I immediately just went to clean it all up as my character would’ve done. Fortunately, being in a kitchen we had a broom and dustpan on stage already! My cleaning ended up being perfectly timed with the scene and I managed to not break out laughing once for the next half hour I was on stage. After the show half the people I talked to had to actually ask me if that plate was supposed to fall! There are definitely some other things I’m proud of, but I’m pretty sure that one will stay in my memory as a fairly legendary moment!
Speak About It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with high schools and colleges to educate, entertain, and empower students to create positive change within their communities, advocate for and practice healthy relationship habits, and prevent sexual violence.
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