Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : December 28th 2014 Contents By Roslyn Carrington
SERENDIPITY seems to have had a heavy hand in
Tishanna William's life. The series of fortunate
events that led to the development of her career
in theatre, screen acting, and singing are so random
that they are either the result of the whims of the
universe or directed by the hand of God.
Williams was always an artistic child, she says. "My
entire yard was this big imaginary state, and every
day it was a different world, and I had these differ-
ent lives in my head. It was like a constant story-
book; I played a character every day."
She sang, too, making up her own calypso at age
nine and winning a Primary school contest. When
people started encouraging her to perform nation-
ally, she balked at the pressure. "I played a little pan
and dropped out. Then I'd do something else and
drop out. I never did enough for anyone to really
As with many naturally artistic young people, she
turned to the more "sensible" option, and entered
the science stream, following it all the way to uni-
versity level. But her destiny caught up with her.
"I was in UWI studying for a degree in Biochem-
istry and Biotechnology," she says. "Then I trans-
ferred to Theatre Arts." How does such a dramatic
change of horses in midstream come about?
"To be honest, I don't know. I was sitting on a bench
near the Science building with my friends, and I just
thought, 'I want to do something different'. What I
was doing with my life wasn't holding me anymore.
I got up and walked off. I started asking people I
met if there was a theatre department in UWI.
I went into the Department of Creative and
Festival Arts and asked who was in charge."
She met with Senior Lecturer,
Mr. Louis McWilliams, who eventu-
ally became her mentor. "I said, 'My
name is Tishanna Williams, and
I want to do Theatre. If some-
one was to tell me I could
never do another scien-
tific experiment in my
life, it would hurt me, but I would be okay. 'If some-
one was to tell me I could never perform..." She did-
n't need to finish.
Though the university resisted mightily, she even-
tually picked up the theatre courses as electives,
even though she was still registered as a science
Another "accidental" turning point in her life came
as she walked in on a campus performance of
Efebo Wilkinson's Bitter Cassava. "I walked in late,
at the wedding scene, when they are walking down
the aisle, and people are singing." She sings a little
tune. "At that moment my entire life twisted. I de-
cided there was nothing to do with my life but be
in theatre. There was nothing I wanted to do but
Her theatre credits also include roles in March to
Caroni, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Little Shop
of Horrors, and The Wiz.
Even her notable screen role as the demanding girl-
friend, Donisha, in the local feature film, God Loves
the Fighter, came about by accident. She tells the
tale of calling up her 'bestie', Muhammad Muwakil,
hoping to meet him for lunch.
"I was starving. He promised to make me some
salmon. He wanted me to meet him at the Trinidad
Theatre Workshop... where he was working on the
casting for Fighter." At some point, Muwakil, who
starred in the film as Charlie, convinced her to au-
dition for a part.
She didn't want to do it. "I was hungry and grumpy.
I said no, I came for food. I read the script, but I was
uninterested; I wasn't even doing a good job. They
asked me to do an improv, and I did it. In the middle
of the improv, director Damian Marcano turns to
Muwakil and said, 'Where was she all along?'"
So Williams was "accidentally" cast in a small role
as a prostitute, but the Universe still had plans for
her. She missed one of the shooting dates, and did-
n't get to do her scene, but was asked to read for
another. "I don't remember this, but Damien says
as I was reading, Jamie Lee Phillips, who plays the
lead, walked past me, and I turned and snapped at
her." The fire she showed was enough for her to be
offered a more meaty role: Charlie's loud, frus-
trated, and demanding neighbour, who has no
problem airing her dirty laundry for all to see.
Now fresh from a stage performance of Miss Julie:
A Love Story, in which she took the emotionally de-
manding part of the cuckolded fiancée, Christine,
she is resting up and contemplating her next move,
which is to focus more on directing, as she did with
a performance of Jean and Dinah, among others.
She also keeps busy as a drama facilitator with the
educational group Arts in Action, and also sings
with the Freetown Collective (who performed the
sound track for the movie) and other reggae
artistes and bands like Orange Sky. She also writes
for the New York-based online lifestyle magazine,
And although her career has progressed through
happenstance and coincidence, there is no denying
that Williams is where she wants and needs to be
right now. "The best thing about theatre is knowing
where I come from. I know who I am."
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nothing to do
with my life
but be in
was nothing I
wanted to do
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