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From the intersection of Hartrey Avenue and Church Street to the one at Chicago Avenue and Grove may seem like a straight line, but it also describes an arc in the career of actor and Evanston native Tina Lifford. Ms. Lifford, who grew up near Evanston Township High School and can currently be seen as Renee Trussell on the NBC series “Parenthood,” is bringing her play “The Circle” to Evanston next week.
The play depicts “the power of the circle – the place where we can be safe and tell our power,” Ms. Lifford told the RoundTable in an interview last week. She both wrote and stars in the “The Circle”; Shirley Finney directs. The play depicts seven women of diverse backgrounds telling their stories of struggle and triumph. “As the women come together, we discuss how much alike we are,” says Ms. Lifford.
Audience members may be entertained for an hour or more or may use the play as the starting point of a spiritual journey. Ms. Lifford says if audience members come away from the play and “have an experience and say, ‘That was fun,’ that’s O.K.” but “many people will come to our play and say they want more.” The “more,” she says, is the message about “inner fitness,” a term she says she has “commandeered” to describe “living the best life possible.” She says she hopes that in the next five to seven years the term “inner fitness” will be as commonly used as “physical fitness.”
Spirituality and faith have been at the center of Ms. Lifford’s life for as long as she can remember, she told the RoundTable: “I remember walking to school on the edge of the sidewalk so God could walk next to me, and sitting on the edge of my desk at school, to make room for God.”
Even while pursuing the Hollywood dream, she paid close attention to her inner self. “I have spent a great deal of time and money on my own personal development,” she says. She studied at the Agape Center of Truth in Los Angeles, where she became a licensed practitioner, and she completed the master’s program in Spiritual Psychology at the University of Santa Monica.
Putting her study to work, she founded the company Waking Up Fabulous, of which she is the CEO. Through workshops and retreats WUF “trains women and exceptional men in business and life to live more authentically, effectively and successfully, particularly as they navigate transitions,” according to the website wakingupfabulous.com.
“People are in such pain,” she said, “which comes of being human. We don’t know it can be resolved because we don’t talk about it. Inner fitness gives people permission to be confident. … If we do our job well, we leave people with a sense of self-care and self-acceptance.”
“There are 14 ways in which we hold ourselves small,” says Ms. Lifford. The workshop participants learn how to identify them and how to address them “so you can live a better life … move to a better self.” Waking Up Fabulous has 14 practices that lead to inner fitness by teaching the “skills and practices that develop inner spirituality and well-being and show it to the country and to the world. … I encourage people to create their own circles, create a place where people are safe and can be seen and heard and tell their stories and live their best life.”
Seven of these “best lives” are showcased in “The Circle.” Although the play has been performed already in Atlanta and San Diego, Ms. Lifford says the Evanston performances are in essence the launch of a nationwide tour – with at least one performance in each of the 50 states.
Ms. Lifford’s star appears to be rising as her physical journey has completed a circle and brought her for a time back to Evanston.
“The Circle” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 25 and 26 in Nichols Concert Hall at the Music Institute of Chicago, 1490 Chicago Ave. Tickets ($35 general admission) and information are available at www.thecircleplay.com, email@example.com, 323-395-5793 or 702-358-1880.