Speaker: Mia Tagano

What My Grandmother Taught Me

Mia Tagano is an actress whose devotion to caring for her 95-year-old grandmother has touched many hearts.  "My grandmother is my best friend," Mia says. "She teaches me to be in the moment." She visits almost daily and cares for her grandmother, who has dementia and no short-term memory, and Mia shines her light on other nursing home residents as well.  In describing her visits, Mia notes that her grandmother "doesn’t know I came yesterday but is grateful to see me today. We laugh easy together, play solitaire in partnership, high-five with both hands when she “wins" at the end; we ... hold each other. She used to hold just one hand but nowadays she reaches for both and squeezes tightly. Sometimes, she falls asleep. Still holding on. When I go to leave, I kiss her face – literally – her forehead, her eyes, cheeks and mouth – she giggles and thanks me for coming to visit her. I thank her for her love. It is an intimate and beautiful period of our life together."

Mia is an accomplished actress in the Bay Area.  After receiving a B.A. in Drama from the Ohio State University and an M.F.A. in Theatre Arts through the University of Washington's Professional Actor Training Program, Mia moved to New York City for acting, toured with the Royal Shakespeare Company in England, and has performed in scores of stage productions since.  

A member of Actor's Equity Union and Screen Actor's Guild, Mia's television credits include "All My Children" and "Law and Order: Criminal Intent." Highlights of her stage acting career include performing 203 shows of "Far East" at the Lincoln Center in New York City; performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 10-hour play "Tantalus" directed by Sir Peter Hall and performed in Denver, London, and on tour around England; and performing the solo, one-woman show "Cincinnati" in San Francisco, Seattle, and London, directed then by Sir John Barton. She will next be seen in San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre's spring/summer production of "Love and Information" by Caryl Churchill, in which there will be only 15 actors to play 100 characters -- an exciting and "great challenge for an actor," according to Mia.

Yet amid all these professional acting roles, Mia has found her personal voice and her lifetime role in her numerous, impromptu performances of acts of compassion, goodness and generosity. "I believe that helping others is the best way to help yourself," Mia says.

In addition to her acting, Mia has worked as a teaching artist for over 20 years with youth and adults from preschool to college age. Currently she uses theatre arts to teach poetry to students in arts integration residencies with the "Playing With Poetry" program of Theatreworks of Silicon Valley. She previously worked for 5 years with the Performing Arts Workshop in San Francisco where the mission is to bring arts to inner city youth. She believes that every individual is creatively gifted in some way and she sees teaching as a way of facilitating and witnessing this light.  She has also been active in social change efforts, having prayed for an anti-nuclear world in peace walks with Jun San, and worked with her partner John Malloy with at-risk youth and native/indigenous communities. 

In giving advice to future generations of actors, Mia says, "Don't settle for mediocrity in yourself.  Always learn.  Find different teachers.  Not just one, but many teachers.  Learn a lot about the craft.  Find your voice.  Find what moves you.  Speak truth.  Be authentic."  As for her own acting, Mia says that "I can be exotic or homespun.  Perky or subdued.  Complex or straight-forward.  And I believe in the power of voice to change people's minds." Hear Mia's voice on this Awakin call, and experience how that voice has helped touch so many people's hearts in her grandmother's nursing home community and beyond!

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