“I was a real tomboy growing up,” says Georgia-born Tiffany Rachelle Stewart. “And I think one day my mother took a good look at me and decided I needed some direction.”
So her mother took the little girl out of the school she had been attending and enrolled her in a school that specialized in the arts.
“It was called the Atherton Elementary School,” Stewart remembers. “I was in the fifth grade at the time, and believe me, my mother dragged me there kicking and screaming. But that school and those teachers eventually changed my life forever.”
Stewart studied dance and drama, creative writing and music. “And it was the first time in my life that adults spoke to me as if I had something interesting to say. They made me feel important.”
With that in mind, Stewart eventually entered Florida State University and eventually received her bachelor’s of fine arts in acting. But before graduating she spent her junior year in London, absorbing the theatrical scene and seeing as many plays as possible.
“And it was while I was in London that I came to understand what acting was really all about and what acting could really do,” Stewart says.
Soon after, Stewart got her master’s of fine arts in acting from the Yale School of Drama. And since then, she announces proudly, she has worked consistently in her chosen field. For example, she’s appeared on Broadway in “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” and off-Broadway in “Sugar in Our Wounds,” among others.
Her talent has also taken her to film and TV, while her work has garnered her awards such as Best Actress in a Drama, “Black Rose” (New York Television Festival); and Outstanding Ensemble, “Sugar in Our Wounds” (AUDELCO).
Today, Stewart is getting set to appear as Elsie in Dominique Morisseau’s “Mud Row,” a new play inspired by an area in the East End of West Chester, Pa., and running at People’s Light from June 26 to July 28.
According to Stewart, the play involves two sisters — Elsie and Frances — who navigate class, race, love and family. “The sisters come from a time in the 1950s where their lives were pretty rocky, and when their parents died they were left the house they lived in and nothing else.
“Elsie hopes to move up in the world by marrying a man of means, while Frances sees her mission quite differently, believing we must get out there with picket signs and fight for our rights.”
Told in flashback, the story moves back to the ‘50s and forward to present day, showing where the two concepts and struggles have gotten Elsie’s grandchildren and Frances’ great nieces.
“I love playing strong, complicated, leading women. Women who are real,” Stewart confesses. “I love playing women who are strong and beautiful, but at the same time allowed to wear sweatpants and flip-flops, and do not have to shave their legs for anyone if they don’t want to.”
The production of “Mud Row” at People’s Light and Theater has just been extended through Aug. 4.