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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 womyn who have been killed by the fragility of masculinity and police brutality.

*#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, is 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).

*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. She’s incredibly deft with words, and her 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, 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 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 her audience would be, and she 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"!


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