My name is Tiffany Rachelle Stewart and I was born in Atlanta, Georgia. I lived in Atlanta until I was eleven, then I moved to Alabama, and then I went to college at Florida State University. So I’m very Southern. Super duper.
I went to college really interested in dancing and acting, but I didn’t know how to bring those things together, other than in musical theater. I first auditioned for the musical theater program at FSU my freshman year and got totally denied! Because I’m not a big singer. I think I went into my audition and sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” like a crazy person and they were like “Uhn uhn.” So then my first semester, I auditioned for the Acting program, and was in the B.F.A. Acting program from then on.
My mom has always been the biggest cheerleader I’ve ever had, the most supportive person I could’ve asked for. I deeply believe that every little girl needs somebody holding pom-poms up in the sky for them with a big sign saying, “You’re the Best! You can do it! Go. Go. Go!” And my mom was that person. I actually remember saying to my mom right when I was going to Florida State, thinking I wanted to do dance or acting—I remember saying, “Mom, maybe I should just do pre-law and work towards trying to be a lawyer?” And my mom, who has worked tirelessly her whole life, said, “Tiffany if you don’t do what you love, then all you’re ever going to have is a job.” And I really heard her when she said that. That all I would ever have is a job if I didn’t do something I loved. It stayed with me all these years. I was sixteen. And oh my god! My mom can’t stop. It’s like she has a permanent mega-phone attached to her mouth, screaming jubilations about everything she sees me do. It’s funny because I ended up studying acting in London, going on to the Yale School of Drama, graduating from Yale and coming to work in the big city. But it was very hard for me as an actress starting out—like it is for most people. Around 2011, maybe four years after school, I started to finally get my stride. I’ve thankfully been working more consistently over the last three years, doing some television and film, and working in some incredible theatres, but even before then my mom had always been the person who sees it before I see it. Even when I was in my downest time wondering, “Man what’s going on? Why is this so hard?” –my mom would just be so adamant that one day soon Robert DeNiro was going to call me and be like, “Tiffany, I want you for this movie.” So she thinks kind of insanely big for me. But it’s really lovely to have somebody in my life who believes that deeply in not just what she feels is my talent, but what is to be my life’s work. I’ve certainly been working towards all of this since I was in high school. I left the South and I’ve never gone back because I’ve been away pursuing it. I’m 31 now, so that’s basically fifteen years I’ve been away seeking to do and doing what I love. The way I see the world now is completely different than when I was growing up. But I think hopefully that is what happens as you mature into adulthood—you see possibilities you never saw as a child and you get to live them.
I feel fantastic being a part of this PublicWorks Tempest enterprise. The Shakespeare Summer Intensive I just taught for the DreamYard teenagers was insanely personal, for the kids and for me. I feel really thankful to have had the opportunity to challenge them in so many ways. Lear is a person who is very meticulous and knows exactly what she wants, and the fact that she’s trusted me to do so much with the Tempest—specifically the work with the community—I don’t take it for granted. I said to Lear the other day, “Thank you for trusting me to have this much access to the community that you’re engaging in this work; because I know you wouldn’t have thrown just anybody in front of them.” I carry the mantle of knowing, “to whom much is given, much is required.” So, I’m very thankful…and I’m very excited!