Counterweight Feature: TS Hawkins

TS Hawkins is is an internationally recognized playwright, performance poet, and arts educator. Her published works include Sugar Lumps and Black Eye Blues, Lil Blaek Book: all the long stories short and The Secret Life of Wonder: a prologue in G. Her choreopoem AGAIN appeared in the PHL Bridge Festival last year.
We asked her some questions about her work. 
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CW: Theater is tough, and you’re a busy person with lots of modes and talents (poetry, education, justice work.) Why do you keep doing it? 
TS: I do the work because it needs to be done; no questions or doubts about it. The voices of those that are continually placed into the margins due to various systems of oppression need to be thrust center-stage; telling their own stories without the glaze of bastardized Euro-centric paralipsis.
CW: What’s the value of the art form for you? 
TS: The indescribable thaumaturgy of theater is the priceless wonder that serves as the necessary escape and unveiling of the world we live in. It is the story of storytellers; the thirst for change that I have had the pleasure to be a part of and want to continue to share with others.
CW: You create a lot of choreopoems. For you, what is the interplay between  the words, the movement of body and the sounds? 
TS: In huge part to Dr. Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon and Ntozake Shange, I was blessed to unearth a foundation for my voice. The pulchritude of choreopoem gives breath to all mediums finding a home within a piece of work. Choreopoem has the fluidity to be concrete and abstract while creating sub-worlds that any audience member can relate to. Within choreopoem it is essential that one bring body, sound, and earnest vulnerability to get the work to its feet.
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CW: Your work often centers on the voices of black women. What do you think the broader community doesn’t get about representing black women on stage? 
TS: There is so much more than having women of color represented on stage; they need to be pronounceable behind the scenes and at the creative tables that insist upon telling their stories. Women of color, with varying intersectionalites, are the strength that continue to hold this nation together yet they are constantly belittled, degraded, begrudged, pushed to be invisible, or forced into the limelight for societal fodder. The broader community needs to acknowledge and respect their magic outside of hashtags.
CW: What do you want to see change about representation on Philly stages in general? 
TS: The Philadelphia theater community needs to acknowledge and understand how they have benefited from oppressing people of color. From there, honest conversations could lead to creating, cultivating, and developing work for and by individuals of color. Additionally, funding streams need to be equally distributed within the theater community. Instead of funders favoring predominantly white organizations/theaters to produce that “one black show” a season, they could invest in black and brown organizations that have been showcasing their truths on the margins.
CW: What elements make it tough for nonwhite playwrights? 
TS: Some elements that make it complicated for non-white playwrights is the community not wanting to “take a chance” on their work or organizations believing the message they are showcasing won’t translate to a universal audience because the thoughts and feelings are coming from a black/brown lens.
CW: Do you have a fantasy project? What would you do with full funding, time and space? 
TS: As a woman of color, the reality is, there isn’t room to think about fantasy projects when so many unsung voices need to heard. Fantastical thoughts are the luxury of those never having to second-guess how much space they take up in world, never having to doubt their point of view, and never having dwell in silence nor apologize for just existing. I want reality projects; a community that will rally behind voices of color, fully fund their projects without scrutiny, and allow them the time and space to live unabashed in their power.
Find TS at www.tspoetics.com
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