It's been a while since we've covered a stage play here at UG Digital, but it's definitely both an honor and pleasure to have an opportunity in checking out Deepest Shades of Blue. Written by Playwright Tisha Griffith, Deepest Shades of Blue centers around the many trials, emotions, and life changes that come along with a diagnosis of HIV. It's a story that resonates with so many and is embedded in so many communities, yet it's something that so few actually cover or dig deep into. Through the story displayed in this stage play, audiences are learning that it's no longer an automatic death sentence, and they're learning how to deal with it, whether it's them directly, family, or friends.
We recently featured Tisha and the full cast on our weekly radio broadcast, UGD Live, and of course, we had to catch her again to get her here in the mag.
UG Digital Mag: It’s so wonderful to connect with you again. Of course, it was great having you on UGD Live. So for our readers, talk about the play, the story behind it, and what you want people to get?
Tisha Griff: I wrote Deepest Shades of Blue in 2014, because I wanted to talk to the epidemic playing in the african american community. It’s the story of a woman’s life and her trials and tribulations, centering around HIV. It speaks to the different emotions she went through. That could be despair, joy, or just being gloomy. I wanted to talk to the stigma that surrounds the disease and why people don’t talk about it, or let people know their status. They fear they’ll be treated differently than if they were to admit their status. Having HIV is not a death sentence. People live long and healthy lives with the disease. Letting people know about the disease will erase the stigma that is attached, and letting people know their status is how we stop the spread of the virus. That’s what I wanted to get across when I wrote Deepest Shades of Blue.
UG Digital Mag: I know this will be in the Louisville area in April. How close to being prepared is everyone? How are rehearsals going?
Tisha Griffith: As my cast likes to put it, I turn into director-zilla during the last week (laughing). I let my cast do their own thing, but in the last week, it’s game time. Anything with my name attached must be perfect. When people are spending money, I don’t do anything halfway. It’s 100%. That’s the great thing with the cast I work with. Not only is my name attached, but their’s is too, so they take great pride in that. We’ve done this play in 2014, so it’s our second time now. It’s kind of like a brush-up.
UG Digital Mag: It all sounds amazing, and given the fact you did this in 2014, do you see it touring around more?
Tisha Griffith: What we try to do is three plays a year. This is my third original stage play. It depends on the year and how I feel. Last year, we did my play “Inconvenient Truth”, and this year, I wanted to bring out Deepest Shades of Blue. I may want to bring out the play I did in 2010, called “Playing By Life’s Rules”. It just depends on how I feel that particular year. I’m writing a new play right now, called "The Death of a Butterfly". I’m trying to venture out into film making. In April, I’ll be taking a course that will highlight film-making and screenplay writing. That will be my next project. I try to plan at least a year in advance.
UG Digital Mag: The good thing is that the relevance in the subject matter never goes stale. You can always come back to it and do it again.
Tisha Griffith: I did get a lot of good feedback in 2014. A lot of people at that show stayed afterwards, and recommended the play be done in high schools.
UG Digital Mag: Especially with the subject matter and it being about HIV, it actually would fit well in high schools.
Tisha Griffith: I agree. A lot of my plays have comedy, but this is more serious subject matter. "The Death of a Butterfly" is more serious, so as I grow in my writing, I hit on more serious topics affecting the community. I’m happy with the growth of that.
UG Digital Mag: Talk a little more about T-Griff Productions, and what more is to come?
Tisha Griffith: Well, I also launched a film company last year, called Noir Diamond Films. I wrote two short films. One of those will be filming in Columbus Ohio this summer. I really want to get into sending my work to different film festivals. I want to continue working in the arts, entertainment, and with different actors. It’s another branch of my company that I am venturing out into.
UG Digital Mag: I think it’s great. Coincidentally, I’ve done a few things with GCUFF here in Cleveland, and they’re always looking for new films.
Tisha Griffith: That is awesome. By September, I’ll definitely be ready to go with my short film. Preparing for that is very exciting. Film is something I’m excited about, but my first love is theater because there’s nothing like being in the moment. I remember we were doing “Inconvenient Truth”, and there was a scene where someone had to pick up a cellphone and make a call. The cellphone was not on the set, so my actor used her hand as her phone. The audience cracked up, and it’s just that thing in the moment. You can’t yell cut and start over. That’s what I love about theater; being able to connect with the audience, and they can be a part of what you’re doing.
UG Digital Mag: What are you most proud of about your journey?
Tisha Griffith: A lot of people will tell me how awesome I am, and I'm very humbled by that. I’m like I’m alright, I written a couple plays, but when I think about it, I’ve written three original stage plays. Every year, I do at least three. I’ve given so many people opportunities to do what they love to do. I’ve had both successes and failures, but none of that has deterred me from what I love and what I’m passionate about. A lot of people give up, but I admire my tenacity. The things I have come through trying to do what I love shows because the people who stick by me sew into that vision. They know I will keep going until we make it. In 2010, I got really sick and they thought I had cancer. I was rushed to the hospital and was there for ten days. They couldn’t figure out what was happening with my white blood cells. The stage play was a week away. I’m in the hospital room skyping my rehearsals. The first day, they thought my appendix had ruptured. This was while I was at rehearsal. I looked the doctor in the eye and said do what you need, but my rehearsal is tomorrow at 3. He laughed, because I didn’t know the severity. I had a show to do. The day before the show, I checked myself out of the hospital against their judgment. They said I needed to come back following the show, and I said that’s fine, but I have a show to do. That speaks to my passion. It’s life or death to me. There is nothing other than me doing what I’m doing right now. It needs to have a God-given purpose. There’s no alternative. People see that and call me a hustler, or the female Tyler Perry, but by any means necessary we will be successful and that’s just it. There’s no alternative.
UG Digital Mag: It shows your love for the craft though.
Tisha Griffith: Yes, and I have to tell my actors all the time. They don’t get paid their worth, and they are awesome, but they don’t get paid their worth. There are people in Hollywood that are A and B list actors who are looking for work. You have to crawl before you walk. Should we be making lots of money? Yes! But you have to start somewhere, and your experience gives you that trustworthiness when people come to the show. You have the right to speak and say I must be heard, but look at all I’ve done up until now? I’ve earned it, and that’s why they stick with me. They do this because they are passionate. They are just as passionate as I am.
UG Digital Mag: What is that one thing you want to leave readers with?
Tisha Griffith: When you come to my show, and you spend money, we will give you a show. Just like you get a show with Tyler Perry, we will give you a show when you see us. You may fall out of your chair laughing, and you will go through different emotions. I believe in connecting with the audience. It’s not just a play, it is an experience. I have my live music, and my band. I have my set, and I believe in providing that full package. The economy is not all that great that you just have money to blow. If you support me, you’ll get the best show you can get as if you were seeing Tyler Perry, because I am the female Tyler Perry.