Art and perseverance: an interview with Tanya Rollins Shadley


Courtesy ODU Women’s Center

By D'Onna Coleman, Staff Writer

Tanya Rollins Shadley, an Old Dominion University alumni, C.E.O., Actress, writer, director vocalist, and proud mother and wife, came back to her roots to perform an eye opening production.


Mrs. Rollins Shadley has been in the spotlight singing since she was five and performing since she was eight. At the age of eight she was in her first production “Black Girl” performed on the Norfolk State University campus with NSU players under the direction of DeShera “Sunshine” Rainey. She would later go on to perform with SEVVA summer arts workshop and eventually return again as a teacher.


While in high school she was given the opportunity to attend Governor’s School for the Arts Performing Arts department. While in Governor’s School she scored a guest role in American Gothic. She later graduated with honors from Governor School and Maury High School. Tanya is the C.E.O. of TRS Productions, Broadway in V-A which she started in 2006.


“Thank God he’s blessed me with the talent,” Tanya said.


When asked to give advice to emerging playwrights she said, “Have pieces of paper in random places.”


She continues saying, “Because you never know when inspiration is gonna hit… Luckily today we have the luxury of cell phones, so you can just put a little note in there or jot something down, or speak to your phone and it’ll write it down for you. But for me it’s something about that paper…that is kind of motivating and inspiring. You have to get the ideas out in order to make the first step or you’ll never gonna make a move, it will only continue as an idea in your head.”


Her second piece of advice to emerging playwrights is a definite don’t to her. She says do not share your ideas with everyone, as a protection to yourself, your ideas and the other person. Her last piece of advice is to seek out those you trust. “I do not feel like people give enough weight to the talent here in the 757.”


As a mother of three, a wife, playwright and much more, Tanya says she finds it challenging to juggle all of the roles. However, she made it clear she does not feel as if being a playwright is a job, but a release.


“I have the added blessing of doing what I love, so this to me does not feel like work,” she says. “Whether I’m performing on stage or producing or directing it’s a bit of a release. I can step out of myself and put another hat on.” She goes on to continue to say her family motivates her and this is her passion, “I knew at eight,” she says. Tanya then goes on to talk about growing up in church and how that has influenced her life “If I can give you the same message in a different format, but you can get the healing that you need that’s what I’m here for.”


Another motivator for Tanya is seeing the change after people attend her shows and watching their reactions during, whether they laugh, cry, or smile she enjoys tapping into someone and making a change.


“Art is a mirror,” she says. She then goes on to explain that what you see in art can heal you, because you can see you can see yourself in the art.

The hardest part of being a playwright for Mrs. Rollins Shadley is not the writing, “I can write a whole show in a day,” she says. “The unknown of will people come… and trying to navigate while you are building a team.”


“Onward and Upward: Getting Past the Past” is a production that brings awareness to domestic violence. The director herself says this is a very touching subject due to her losing her cousin to domestic violence. The play is dedicated in her cousins memory. Other productions of hers include “Raging Waters”, “Lady Shadley’s Juke Joint”, and “A Night of Music” to name a few.

Her last comments were “I am very grateful overall… business wise and personally this has shaped me as a woman. ”