Tanya Shaffer: Writer, Performer, Traveler
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Miss America's Daughters
by Tanya Shaffer
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"I think of embarrassing my mother as part of my job."
What would Miss America be like as a mother? As she began to age, how would she feel about a younger version of herself walking around, reminding her of what she'd once been? On the other hand, what would it feel like to be Miss America's daughter? Would she admire her mother? Envy her? Rebel? And what if she did not fit the mold? What if she were fat, or loud, or otherwise socially embarrassing? How would Miss America cope? How would the child?

Tanya's first solo show, "Miss America's Daughters," is a cabaret-style pastiche of music, poetry, monologue, and movement which tells the story of an aging Miss America coaching her recalcitrant daughters on how to follow in her footsteps. Inspired by the poem "Miss America Comes Across Her Daughter," by Pamela White Hadas, and using excerpts from that poem, "Miss America's Daughters" portrays the daughters at a variety of stages of life, from infancy to old age, reacting to and against her mother's teachings in a variety of ways, from anorexia and mental breakdown to radical feminism and good-humored self-acceptance. It contains songs and poetry from a variety of sources, including a song by Tanya’s brother, Len Shaffer.

Tanya began developing "Miss America's Daughters" while a senior at Oberlin College, where she performed various incarnations of it at the Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse with composer/pianist Amanda Udis-Kessler. After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1988, Tanya reshaped the piece with the help of director Rick Sperling, and premiered the new version at UC Berkeley and La Peña Cultural Center. Over the next several years, she traveled around the country, mostly by Greyhound bus, performing at coffeehouses, colleges, theatres, and women's conferences, first with pianist LauraMichele, and later with multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire Ed Roseman. It was quite a ride.
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Press / Testimonials
"Explosive…A moving house of mirrors, peering into the hearts and minds of a collection of characters both hilarious and disturbing. Dealing with issues of body image, gender indoctrination and pop-culture conformity, Miss America's Daughters explores a new dynamic in observational comedy and provides a provocative forum for examining the fashion-plate phenomenon."
- Cindy Franks, SF Weekly (**Critic's Choice**)
"Provocative, humorous, and thoroughly entertaining."
- Dan Ouellette, The Daily Californian
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"Blends music, dance, and acting to expose the flaws and hypocrisy in the sweet little girl scenario…Shaffer has a beautiful singing voice, a strong stage presence, and she moves well. As Miss America, she poses with the exaggerated grace of a 1940's silver screen actress; as Miss America's daughter she has the coltish self-consciousness of a teenager."
- Kay Sundstrom, Berkeley Voice
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"Conceptually ambitious...A kind of parable of a feminist awakening in the womb of sexism…Shaffer is a personable, versatile performer."
- Scott Rosenberg, San Francisco Examiner
"Highlights of this year's showcase [at the National Women's Music Festival] included…the touching and hilarious comedy of "Miss America's Daughters," created and performed by Tanya Shaffer, which examined and debunked traditional female roles and stereotypes."
- Verla J. Faus, Feminist Voices
"A tremendously creative work."
- Krissy Keefer, Dance Brigade
"A young and savvy viewpoint. With Shaffer's sly wit and lovely voice, its easy to imagine this show winning hearts anywhere."
- Gail Ann Williams, Plutonium Players (cocreator of "Ladies Against Women")
"Exciting and imaginative. Tanya has the rare ability to go right to the heart of the matter and pull out a hard-hitting truth while keeping the audience thoroughly engrossed and entertained."
- Jo-Lynne Worley, Redwood Records
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