Tag Archives: Suzanne Tanner

Where Tess’ Love Begins

How do you define forever?

That’s a question Suzanne Tanner faces every day.

Tess Tanner (Photo/Suzanne Tanner)

Tess Tanner (Photo/Suzanne Tanner)

She’s the mother of Tess Tanner, a 12-year-old Coleytown Middle School musician, actor, environmentalist and fun-loving girl who died 5 summers ago in a motor vehicle accident, while attending summer camp in Maine.

For Suzanne, “forever” means never letting go of her daughter’s poetry, passions and determination to make a difference.

It also means honoring Tess with a musical theater production that Suzanne herself has written.

“Where the Love Begins” is a musical memoir — “a mother’s love story,” she says — titled after Tess’ 1st poem, written when she was 5.

Suzanne performs a world premiere reading of the musical on Wednesday, August 17 — the 5th anniversary of her daughter’s death — at Saugatuck Congregational Church (7:30 p.m.).

The free event includes a special dance tribute by Staples High School junior Katherine Flug.

where the love beginsThere’s special poignancy to the show. Many of Tess’ classmates leave soon, entering college and pursuing passions of their own.

Suzanne — an award-winning musician while at Harvard — calls her multimedia composition “a musical monument” for her daughter, and “a thank-you gift to the universe for the profound privilege of parenthood.”

The show has received Broadway interest. It will workshop next year, fulfilling Suzanne’s mission to immortalize her daughter’s essence, and continue Tess’ emphasis on family, friendship and faith in forever love.

(For more information, click here or email PoeTessProductions@gmail.com)

Tess Meisel’s “Love Begins”

The death of Tess Meisel — a 12-year-old Coleytown Middle School musician, actor, environmentalist and fun-loving girl — in a 2011 Maine motor vehicle accident rocked all who knew her. Her friends vowed never to forget her.

Fellow Coleytown Company actor Vig Namasivayam — now a Staples junior — grew close to Tess’ mother, Suzanne Tanner. She’s a composer of musical biographies. During a 2013 visit, they got the idea of making a musical celebrating Tess’ life.

Suzanne wrote the music and lyrics. She asked Vig to direct it.

He was hesitant at first. But it grew into an amazing story, with a great cast. Vig now calls it “my pride and joy.”

where the love begins“Where the Love Begins” is a mother’s tender memoir of the child-rearing years, from birth on. Suzanne will be onstage, at the piano, reflecting on a turbulent but profoundly poignant period in her life, by being a narrator of sorts.

She hopes the show will inspire others  to cherish time with their loved ones, and offer perspective on what is truly important in life: family, friendship and faith in the beyond.

The show will be performed in the Staples auditorium on August 21, 22 and 23. All proceeds go to the Tess Meisel Scholarship Fund — helping students who share Tess’ passions for the environment, musical theater and poetry — and other related charities.

But to give away money, Vig and his friends first have to raise funds — for costumes, sets, lights and auditorium rental and a special program, filled with Tess’ poetry.

The 1st benefit for the show is Saturday, April 11 at Toquet Hall. Cast members will perform songs from “Where the Love Begins.” Members of Wreckers in Tune and the band C4S will also play.

Tess Meisel

Tess Meisel

A number of Staples students are acting and doing tech work. Samantha Galvao, who was in the car crash with Tess, is technical director. Others are doing lighting, stage managing and choreography. Suzanne — Tess’ mom — will help instruct the actors and musicians.

She and Vig are honoring Tess’ commitment to environmentalism by using recycled items and making ecologically responsible choices.

It’s pretty clear that the love that began for Tess continues long after her death.

[For tickets to the Toquet Hall benefit via Facebook, click here. There is also a “GoFundMe” site for donations — click here to help.]

Tess’ Bench

The other day, I posted a few of Lynn U. Miller’s photos of the library Riverwalk, at dusk. 

I was struck by their beauty. Many “06880” readers were too. But for Suzanne Tanner, one picture was especially poignant. She wrote:

I want to thank Lynn for capturing such a profound and welcoming photo of my daughter’s memorial bench on the grounds of the Westport Public Library.

The bench was inspired by and appropriated with a memorial fund started in my daughter’s name to establish points of figural beauty in and around one of Tess’s favorite places in town — our riverfront library.

Library bench sunset - Lynn U Miller

I want to remind others how important it is to pause and reflect on all of the love that is given to us in life, be it the warmth of a child’s hand in ours or the generosity of a singular smile resonating in the crevices of time’s travel. It always pleases me to see another appreciate the beauty in the structure of the bench and the delightful setting for all to share.

A portion of Tess’s fund has been allocated to the Levitt Pavilion to continue the effort. I am currently searching for outdoor sculptures, favoring any with the essence of poetry, discovery, mythology and hummingbirds to create a Riverwalk Sculpture Garden in Tess’s honor.

If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, please contact either myself (suzannetanner@aol.com) or the Levitt (levitt@westportct.gov). I welcome the energy and opportunity to share in the journey of remembering a most delightful spirit with an inspiring path along the riverwalk.