Class act: Teacher stars in one-woman show about public schools

Over run: Performer and teacher Vicki Tanner will stage her solo show, “Running Into Me,” as part of a weeklong series female storytellers starting on Jan. 18 at the Irondale Center.
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She is running towards her past.

A Bedford-Stuyvesant teacher will launch a cathartic one-woman show next week, inspired in part by her rocky experience with New York City public schools. “Running Into Me,” opening on Jan. 18 at Fort Greene’s Irondale center is one half of a week-long celebration of female-focused stories, titled “She Stands Alone.” Its creator and star says that the performance will not only show how she grew past her own difficult childhood, but how education can help troubled teens before they end up in trouble — or in jail.

“When I was growing up, there was a lot of rage because nobody was paying attention, and I got into a lot of trouble,” said Vicki Tanner. “When you’re young, you’re taught that things are supposed to get better. The show is really about how we as a society are failing our young people, especially in New York City public schools.”

Tanner moved to the city in 1985, after she graduated from California State University at Long Beach, and she started teaching conflict resolution and behavioral management classes to middle and high school students in the Bronx — an experience that allowed her to process some of her own repressed rage, she said.

“At that point, I barely understood myself,” she said. “I learned a lot by doing, the hard way.”

Soon, Tanner was writing stories about her distant, distracted single mother, and about the drug and prison cultures she was raised in. Eventually, she felt a need to perform the scenes on-stage — even though doing so went entirely against her nature, she said.

“I was compelled to write it,” Tanner said. “I’m a really private person, I’m kind of shy, so getting up in front of a bunch of people by myself was not my idea of a good time. But as I was writing, it started to become clear to me: this is a solo play. I know all these characters, the voices are inside me and want to get out.”

The resulting one-hour show, which Tanner plans to turn into a web series, explores her life from her teen years through her mid-30s, and features 15 characters from her past, all played by Tanner herself.

“She Stands Alone” features two one-woman plays each night: “Running Into Me” and “Jellybean,” by Lee Harrington, about the creator’s fraught childhood bouncing between foster homes due to a mentally unwell mother. The executive director of Irondale hopes that series will help amplify the stories of female storytellers.

“I hope it brings more unheard voices to the theater,” said Terry Greiss. “We’ve got women who have a lot to say.”

“She Stands Alone” at Irondale Center (85 S. Oxford St. between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street in Fort Greene, Jan. 18–27 at 7:30 pm. $30 ($20 for “Running Into Me” only).

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 5:50 pm, July 9, 2018
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