With great sadness, we share the news of the death of our friend and colleague, Twila Thompson. Twila bravely battled glioblastoma for the last eight months. Twila was tenacious, optimistic, and daring throughout her illness as she was in her life.
Twila was born in Indiana and grew up in Iowa. An exceptional student, she attended Grinnell College to study theater. Upon graduation with high honors, she and a fellow student toured a piece of feminist theater entitled Sirens that they wrote, produced, and performed, ultimately landing in New York City.
As a young actor, Twila came to The Actors Institute to participate in acting classes and the signature program, The Mastery. Her quick connection to the work made her an eager student and volunteer. Soon, Twila was training to facilitate the same programs that drew her into the organization. Her skill and intuition in leading group experiences and personal coaching soon cultivated a loyal following of students.
As The Actors Institute evolved to work more consistently in the corporate world, Twila joined Allen Schoer and Gifford Booth as partners in The TAI Group. Her capability and humanity, along with her pioneering spirit, were evidenced in innovative program design, acuity with logistics, and sensitivity to her client's particular needs.
Often a champion of the oppressed and disadvantaged, Twila dedicated herself to coaching the AIDS Mastery for Northern Lights and developing a course called Sources. This intense experiential program challenged people to reframe personal injury and trauma as a source of creativity and supported them in the unfettered expression of their unique voice and perspective through poetry, prose, music, and sculpture.
As the demand for TAI's work continued to grow, Twila recruited and trained coaches. Beginning in the late 1990s and continuing throughout her career, Twila trained four cohorts of coaches in the US and two cohort groups in Europe. The majority of these coaches continue to work with and hold leadership roles in TAI today.
In 1996, Twila partnered with principal Mindy Chermak to create the middle school and high school theatre and musical theater curriculum for the Professional Performing Arts School. PPAS, as it is known locally, is a vibrant public school in New York City dedicated to students who are pursuing professional work in the arts and those who are studying the arts as an avocation. Over her 14 years, Twila directed mainstage productions and created a staff of artist-teachers with diverse professional experience that included acting, voice, speech, mime, music, and directing.
Twila grew to be an exceptionally successful salesperson, resulting from the deep relationships she cultivated with her clients. In 2013, Twila relocated to London to develop international business. In her time, Twila deepened TAI's partnerships with clients such as the Boston Consulting Group, IMD Business School, Maersk, Lego, and Cognizant, opening doors into new industries like pharmaceuticals and technology.
Twila returned to the US as the Director of New Partnerships. Before the pandemic, Twila began training her 5th cohort of US coaches. In 2020, she led a new initiative, Focused Impact Training. The program introduced a select group of former clients, exceptional professionals in their respective fields, to the principles that underscore TAI's work, enabling them to connect our programs and ideology with new markets and geographies.
Twila's intrepid spirit, her intelligence founded in deep curiosity, and her abiding faith in the power of the arts to change worlds, big and small, will never be forgotten by the many whose lives she touched.
If you would like to share a memory or a story about Twila, please scroll to the bottom of this page and add a comment.
Twila was an advocate for and, in recent months, a recipient of the services of God's Love We Deliver. God's Love We Deliver prepares and delivers nutritious, high-quality meals to people who, because of their illness, are unable to provide or prepare meals for themselves. Their mission is to improve the health and well-being of men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDs, cancer, and other serious illnesses.
A memorial tile will be hung in the offices of God’s Love We Deliver, New York City. Those who wish to contribute to Twila’s Tile and the work of God’s Love may do so at God's Love We Deliver.