Carolyn Chatwin Murset's solo play Tales of Tila tells the story of her Grandma Tila Miera Trujillo's life in Taos, New Mexico, during the early 1900s. Murset is an actress/singer/songwriter. She wrote the musical
score for this show, which features folk and classical guitar. Murset tells matriarch Tila's story through 23 original songs, sometimes playing her guitar live on stage.
Murset appears on stage as adult Tila and tells her story through flashbacks of her childhood. She richly voices young Tila as she squabbles with siblings over her skill at making tortillas and pilfers peanut butter from the cafeteria in her boarding school in Santa Fe. (Tila went away to school because there were no schools near her home in Taos.) Tila is funny, fierce, and loves her family.
Murset recounts the family's struggles during World War I, living through the Spanish flu and joining the Mormon church. Church and family serve as counterpoints to the financial and health problems. Although they lose several children to typhoid and the Spanish flu, the family's faith holds them together. When they finally get their first car and can make the trip to the temple in Mesa, AZ, to be sealed to each other, Tila's message seems to be that their hardships were endurable because of their strong faith.
The song about making chow-chow is a highlight, outlining the pleasant daily routines of life in Tila's home. The story's timeline gets muddled a few times when the audience isn't quite sure if Tila is talking about her parents or her marriage and children. For example, the song about mother and father going to the movies. It is sweet and provides a glimpse into their loving relationship, but it's unclear which set of parents she is talking about.
Overall, the play celebrates Murset's ancestry, tracing their roles in the Mormon church, the U.S. military, the building of Los Alamos, and their tight-knit family. Murset was able to write this show because of a ledger that her grandmother wrote in and encouraged her audience to preserve their family histories and honor loved ones who have passed.
"Tales of Tila"
Written, performed, and directed by Carolyn Chatwin Murset
March 15, 2023
The Spring 2023 United Solo Festival
March 7th - March 26th, 2023
410 West 42nd (btw 9th and 10th Avenue)
STEPHANIE EAGAN is a professional writer based in NJ. A fan of every type of live performance imaginable, from taiko drumming to political performance art, she travels the tri-state area and beyond in search of music, art, theater, and excellent coffee.