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#SuiteReality by TS Hawkins

by TS Hawkins

#SuiteReality, by TS Hawkins, is an award-winning choreopoem experience that touches upon Women's Rights, Black Lives Matter, and #SayHerName; a campaign that highlights womynx who have been killed by the fragility of masculinity and police brutality. Despite the chaos and calamity of life, black & brown womynx continue to make space for radical magic and merriment!

*#SuiteReality debuted, as a staged reading, courtesy of Revamp Collective’s Brief (Political) Encounters February 2017 at Plays & Players in Philadelphia, PA under the direction of Kalif Troy. This was ReVamp Collective’s premiere play festival focusing on gender roles and stereotypes in the political world. The following were cast: Ashley Ayanna (Woman #1), Tiffany Barrett (Woman #2), Ashley B. Spearman (Woman #3), and a special appearance by Aliyah Isis (Freedom), with Tiffany Bacon (Dramaturg), and Karina Banks (Choreographer).

*In 2017, #SuiteReality won the "Reality Check" Surya Bonaly Award.

*#SuiteReality received international recognition, in 2018, by being featured in WORDPEACE Literary Journal's Winter/Spring Issue 2.2

*April 2019, #SuiteReality debuted in Chicago at the Goodman Theatre under the direction of Nicole Michelle Haskins for the Black Lives, Black Words I AM Festival. I AM Fest was an opportunity to shine a spotlight on lesser-known plays from some of the most exciting international Black womynx playwrights. The following actors were cast: Qiana McNary (Woman #1), Taylor Raye (Woman #2), Chelsea Turner (Woman #3), and Jessica Vann (Freedom).

*November 2019, #SuiteReality appeared in two festivals under the direction of Lois Moses. First, the 4th Annual Bridge PHL Theatre Festival. The theme for the year’s festival was “ascension”. The Bridge PHL strives to foster healing connections between our rich and diverse communities by encouraging openness and dialogue about perspectives on racial prejudice, privilege, inclusion, intersectionality, and bias. Next, was Rabbit Punch Festival; a festival of dark/ funny/ scary/ sad/ infuriated/ playful/ weird/ tricky one-act plays. The following actors were cast: Betsy Vivar (Woman #1), Katrina Hall (Woman #2), Maria Genao Beltre (Woman #3), and Cynda Purnell (Freedom).

*February 2021, #SuiteReality appeared in Affirmation Theatre Company’s Pro Black One Acts Festival; an online theatre festival that explores Blackness within the African diaspora. Under the direction of Epiphany Samuels, the following actors were cast: Samantha Spiridellis (Woman #1), Dasja Pennix (Woman #2), Anastasia Martin (Woman #3), and Seven Flowers (Freedom).

*Bonaly Review: Well, obviously #SuiteReality, I think was far out of the league of the other work. #SuiteReality is a choreopoem about the #sayhername movement, which has struggled to gain recognition for black women murdered by the police even as the country focused on the stories of black men. When Tiffany Barrett, Ashley Ayanna, Ashley Spearman, and Aliyah Isis took the stage, it was like suddenly we were in a completely different world; the real world, where real things happen to real people. TS Hawkins' poem was beautiful. Hawkins is incredibly deft with words, and the cast understood them in their bones. #SuiteReality follows knowingly in the tradition of for colored girls, and that really amplified the feeling of a litany. As each of the names of the murdered women is listed, the connection to previous work sends the list backward in time to encompass black women throughout. This play understood not only the political context that it exists in but also the theatrical context. The staging from Kalif Troy was bare and effective, with nothing distracting from the words and emotions. There was just such a strong contrast between the hypothetical, hyper-acted, and low-stakes worlds of all of the other pieces and the honest immediacy of this one. All three actresses were deeply compelling and deeply individual. But Aliyah Isis was riveting. The combination of her composure and innocence with the reality of what it is to be a little black girl in this American moment did not allow for emotional distance. It’s hard to know if Hawkins and Troy did this on purpose, but I think #SuiteReality ended up being a smart, necessary retort to the navel-gazing work that preceded it. When Isis says “This is for white folks” I knew I had been seen and called out. Hawkins knew who the audience would be, and meant to take the opportunity to speak to them. Hawkins came to pop the bubble...and thank god.

*Heather Chonoles: #SuiteReality was awesome. You have a musical understanding of language. The actresses delivered the lines like they were incantations, and each woman radiated power and presence. The staging provided balanced support for the piece and the minimal nature hit the perfect note. The way the women came in laughing, then shifted gears while pinning down the audience with direct eye contact was an awesome choice. And the implementation of the child actress was smart, controlled, and done to the greatest effect. You are making art that matters, and I want to see everything you create. This is what theater can do. This is why we need to see live theater. Thank you for what you do!

*Gabrielle Corsaro: TS, your piece was gorgeous and completely unforgettable. I will be replaying it in my mind for a very long time. Congrats to you, the cast, and your creative team!

*Cara Blouin: I swear to God, you're going to save us all. You made it so worth it!

*Greg Nanni: I loved your piece. Looking forward to the next time I get a chance to see your work!

*Nick Palazzolo: Always excited to support you and your creative brilliance! Absolutely stunning tonight! You wrote some lines that are continuing to echo in my heart, challenging me.

*Chicago Theatre Triathlon: ...thank you, thank you, thank you, for uplifting and articulating the stories of black women!

*C. Barrow: A beautiful, powerful, and inspiring piece!

*A. Ngozi: #SuiteReality is a reflection of the silent suffering [black/brown] women endure and will have to forewarn the next generation. It was so moving and written with a pen that must have glittered across the page. It evoked thought, tears, and perspective on white America’s dependence on "brown silent resilience"!

*Jo B.: For me coming from an art and textile background, the use of color and visual texture created layers to each character on stage. Each character on stage was the embodiment of a facet of the topics facing women and women of color especially. Openness to love, that love being honored their identity being honored, and their safety in all settings. The "blank slate" / actress in white, Cynda Purnell was presented with a component from each personification before being sent unto the unknown. This vulnerability was so clear as she walked through the space; left me in the audience wanted more. To know if she found love, safety, and a safe place to be her full self. I truly enjoyed the work of these actresses. Thank you for your lovely work!

*Jaime Cheng: This was so powerful. Thank you for sharing with us!

*1812 Productions: A terrific piece. So glad we got to be there!

*Jacinta B.: Wonderful show! Just an outstanding production and the actresses did phenomenally!

*Frank Lewis: I’m ALWAYS excited to experience Hawkins's brilliantly worded artistry! The actors truly brought to life the intended message --- to an intended audience by staged choreography, passion, and perfection. As we continue to thrive in society, we must always be mindful of the struggles of Black and Brown women....and not forget their silent struggles to exist....their fight against the system, and the right to protect their bodies from police brutality. The conclusion of this piece depicted that imagery quite well! Keep saying their names and keep bringing our GIRLS back!!!! These talented women rocked it out and so did Hawkins!

*Renny Wright: Definitely enjoyed the work!

*Karen Smith: Excellent performance!! I love Hawkins's vocabulary!


#SuiteReality by TS Hawkins is featured in WORDPEACE Literary Magazine - Spring Edition vol. 2


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