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Tay Lane, 2021 Artist Elevated Winner

in Artist Profiles 3 min read

Her dream is to produce a full-length play based on Plato’s dialogues inspired by her studies.

Her dream is to start a production company called Walter Lane, named after her beloved dog who recently passed.

Her dream is fueled by her late husband, Chris, whose memory is a reminder for her to continue directing, producing, and giving back to the community.

The Artists Elevated Award is making her dreams come true.

Tay grew up in Columbus and took a traditional path in her education — undergraduate and master’s degrees focusing on philosophy and classics. The only theater training she had was her elementary school plays.

Looking for a volunteer outlet outside of her full-time job, Tay came across MadLab — a nonprofit that provides an artistic haven for the creation and experience of original works. MadLab needed help with backstage operations, which became her entry point into community theater.

From there the dominos started to fall. Although she was scared to death during an audition for a part in a play in the revered Theatre Roulette — a short-play festival — she landed the role. As soon as she got her first role, more roles came, and she started writing and directing. Soon, projects were piling up at her feet and she was completely energized.

But then, Tay was blanketed in heartache. Her husband Chris was tragically killed in an accident. As the artistic director of MadLab,

Chris was her biggest cheerleader. As an artist himself, he encouraged her, pushed her out of her comfort zone, and most of all, loved her deeply.

After Chris’ passing, she knew she needed to keep working on her craft. Not only for him, but for herself too.

Her dreams started to feel like reality when her mentor and friend, Stephen Woosley, asked her to arrange directors and actors for two nights of shows through MadLab’s sister company, OG Production, as part of the West Grandview Fringe Festival. In the past, she had only been responsible for small shows — this was the first time she would oversee a larger production as part of a festival. It was the next step for her, and she was ready.

At the same time, her corporate job was taking a toll on her mental and physical health.

Realizing she needed to leave, she started to apply for other corporate positions. With a single income, becoming a full-time artist did not feel like reality. But she ran the numbers and realized she had an opportunity, perhaps the exact opportunity she had been waiting for. She had enough stability to build a more creative and fulfilling life for herself.

She could take the chance. And she did.

 When she was nominated for the Artists Elevated Award, Tay could not believe it. Her community could not believe the amount of the award. Christopher Lockheardt, a friend of hers and a national playwright remarked, “You can get that kind of money for being a creative genius?”

When she received the award, she was floored. This was a chance for her to use her talents to give back to the community as a director, writer, and theater advocate.

Tay is now a full-time artist who loves her work and loves developing people.

When she first meets with the cast as a director, she talks extensively about collaboration. She wants people to have every opportunity possible to bring everything they can to the production. The work she has done hasn’t just been about the work — it’s been about creating an experience for the audience, for the cast, for the backstage crew, for the community.

For Tay, it is important for people to walk away feeling something after a production. Her best times as a writer or director is when she feels an emotion from the audience, when she can sense it in the room. She fondly remembers a play when someone sitting in front of her reacted to a shocking scene by covering her face. As the director, she felt pride in having created that reaction.

Grief is no stranger to Tay, but her grief has fueled her dreams along with Chris, Walter, and the people that make up her theater community.

Theater will always be her light in the darkness.