While earning her BA at Western Michigan University, Tiza knew David Leong (VCU Professor Emeritus and department chair ’96-’17) from the American Society of Fight Directors. They met again at URTA auditions when she was looking for a grad school. David asked her, “Where do you want to be in 5 years?” He told her about Fight Direction, which is how she ended up at VCU in the first class with an emphasis on movement pedagogy.
As for her work at VCU with David she explains, “He taught me what it means to work at a university. To understand what a faculty member does. He helped me understand how to orchestrate crowd scenes and navigate detailed moments in individual fights through a storytelling perspective.”
After grad school, “I needed time for my brain to absorb everything I learned…to live out of my van and be myself.” Her partner was doing commercial work in south Florida, so she moved there doing a variety of acting gigs, including as a trade show model for the Sony VIAO computer.
After a short stay at the University of Alabama, she returned to Florida, where she’s been an Associate Professor at the University of Florida and an Associate Director in the School of Theatre and Dance teaching movement and stage combat. She was also president of SETC for three years.
At VCU, she said, “Whether we were in their classes or not, all the faculty were supportive. They treated all students like their students.” She talks about Noreen Barnes (the department’s former Director of Graduate Studies) and Dr. James Parker (a VCU professor of theatre history and dramatic literature), “[they] were highly influential, because they were creative thinkers in how to deliver a class supported by intellectual and research angles. Skills I carry with me all the time.”
University of Florida ended last semester’s in-person classes with only two days notice. One of the lessons she created for online education was having her students recreate a fight from a film, dissect its safety and the illusions created, then perform it. She’s been lucky to acquire a volleyball practice court, where she can teach some socially-distanced movement classes for this semester.
Compiled by Liz Hopper (Emeritus Faculty) and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the August 2020 Theatre Alumni Newsletter