by Melissa Ardery, Published January 03, 2013
Trailblazing artist, Victoria (Tori) Tomalia, has won the Don and Elizabeth Doyle Fellowship Special Recognition Award for significant contributions to theater for youth. Tomalia is currently an Eastern Michigan University graduate student in Applied Drama and Theatre for the Young.
The fellowship is named in honor of the Doyles' lifetime of creative work in theater for youth, and is given to an outstanding graduate-level student who demonstrates artistic ability within this specialized area of theater. Winners receive monetary awards.
"It is wonderful to be recognized for my contribution to the Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) field," Tomalia says. "I was incredibly flattered to be in a roomful of some of the biggest names in my field, and to be surrounded by people who believe in youth and art as passionately as I do."
Tomalia discovered her enthusiasm for theater and dance when she was three years old. "I used to sit there staring at the stage with wide eyes while soaking in every detail," Tomalia says.
In her role as a graduate student, she directs Eastern's Safe Schools Project: LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer students). The Safe Schools Project is a professional development dramatic presentation for middle and high school teachers, support staﬀ, administrators and students studying secondary education. The project is funded by a grant through the Center for the Study of Equality and Human Rights.
Performances, which are based on real-life accounts of local LGBTQ youth in educational settings, are designed to engage participants in meaningful discussion about bullying and how to create safe spaces for students to learn.
"It started in the summer of 2011 with background research and extensive interviews with high school staff, faculty, and students," Tomalia says. "It is about what they have seen and experienced with regard to LGBTQ issues in their schools."
In winter 2013, Tomalia will direct Eastern's Winter Tour to Young Audiences, a 50-minute performance for grades K-5 that integrates themes of self-confidence, self-acceptance and non-violent conflict resolutions, and analyzes the role of the bystander. The performance will be touring throughout southeast Michigan, March - April 2013.
Tomalia's academic focus is on the relationship between brain chemistry in young adults and art, specifically theater.
"I used to work in an autonomic neurology laboratory and had the opportunity to present my research at two conferences and have it published," Tomalia says. "While this is not an exact match with my current research interests, it certainly gave me a foundation in how to conduct research and synthesize ideas."
Tomalia has gained significant experience taking on a variety of roles within the theater. She was director and theater arts teacher for Saline High School, and for the Wild Swan Theater in Ann Arbor.
She also has worked as a teacher, director and movement specialist at the Masque Youth Theater & School in Rochester Minn., and was an outreach director and acting company member for Rough & Tumble Theater in Boston, Mass.
Tomalia received her bachelor's degree from Macalester College and a graduate degree in arts management from Boston University. She resides in Ann Arbor, Mich. with her husband and three children.