“Locomotion” Opens at Children’s Theatre Company

Talvin Wilks - Photo Credit: Caroline Yang
Talvin Wilks - Photo Credit: Caroline Yang

The Children’s Theatre Company is set to open up a new play that focuses on an 11-year-old’s life, as he explores his life in foster care through the art of poetry. The play, “Locomotion,” is set to open at the CTC’s Cargill Stage on January 24 with the opening night on January 28.

The production is adapted from the book, Locomotion, by Jacqueline Woodson.

Ahead of the opening of this production, we had the chance to interview Talvin Wilks, the director of the CTC’s production of “Locomotion.” As an Associate Professor at the Theatre Arts and Dance Department at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus, Wilks has directed plays for the Penumbra Theatre, the History Theatre, as well as other stages across the country.

We asked Wilks’ for his perspective on this new production, as well as the adaptation of Woodson’s book.

LAVENDER: What appeals to you about “Locomotion” as a piece of theatre?

WILKS: “Well, Jacqueline Woodson is such a gifted writer, she is able to articulate profound concepts through the eyes of young people without a bit of condescension or patronization. Her characters wrestle with complex emotions and challenges with the vocabulary that they have; and it is vibrant, poetic and honest. That she is striving to bring these talents to the theatre and have her voice live on the stage is a very exciting undertaking. Working to make that live and breathe for an audience is very appealing.”

LAVENDER: As a playwright himself, what are your thoughts on directing another author’s own literary adaptation?

WILKS: “Adapting works for the stage is always a challenge. How to preserve the nuance and dynamics of the original source material and shape it into the new realities and demands of the theatre. Jacqueline Woodson has done an incredible job of preserving the poetry of her original storytelling and finding the right character dynamics, dialogue and action essential for a drama. The challenge now is to match the poetry and lyricism of the original with a vibrant visual and movement style of theatrical storytelling. As a theatre artist trained as the consummate collaborator, I flow quite easily through my multiple roles as playwright, dramaturg and director. I’m also someone who understands the importance of those distinctions and works very hard to stay in my designated lane. My playwright brain only invades my directing lane when invited. The ultimate goal is always to serve the text. For this work, it’s important to note that Woodson was a first time playwright when she adapted Locomotion, so there are many “complexities” that a director has to help realize inside of her vision. This is what makes taking on the work exciting. I have the opportunity to bring my unique vision to Woodson’s interpretation, new possibilities.”

LAVENDER: From the perspective of an African-American and LGBTQ theatre practitioner, what important messages are shared and amplified by a work such as “Locomotion”?

WILKS: “The key is that we expose ourselves to the complexities of different cultures, that we are not always looking to affirm our own realities, but we are also meant to see and understand uniqueness, difference and similarities across the board. We can get caught up in identity politics and representation, but a coming of age story is a coming of age story, and should be understood and experienced in its own truth.  No community, race, ethnicity has the sole domain and point of view of this experience. We can learn from everyone’s experience. That a broader world is able to see themselves inside of an African American protagonist or heroine/hero/herX or anti-other for that matter, makes us a greater human family and broadens our understanding of the human experience. Plays of this nature break through segregationist, elitist, bigoted and stereotypical notions that only certain cultures can tell their stories or that singular stories define humanity, or certain experiences should not be told. We are only at the tip of the iceberg in understanding these shared experiences. We need all of our stories. Here is one more opportunity to broaden our understanding of what it means to come of age in this culture. As a queer Black man, I greatly appreciate the intricacies and intimacies that are shared in the family dynamics of the Motion family even if sexual identity or orientation are not a part of the story.”

LAVENDER: How are the themes of “Locomotion” – which takes place in a specific place and in a specific community – universal?

WILKS: “The point is to actually see yourself in another’s story, that is the universal opportunity. What is most important about ‘Locomotion’ is that it is a young man’s tale of coming into maturity and it is specifically an African American young protagonist trying to understand an adult world and adult institutions. In our culture we have many such stories usually by white cis male protagonists, and we are “expected” to see ourselves in their journey and therefore to make it universal. I do not think that a work by its very nature is universal, it has to have a particular honesty and humanity, essential truths that we all can understand. I think African Americans, because of the lack of diversity in literature over centuries, are quite adept at seeing ourselves in others, the act of universality. ‘Locomotion’ provides that gift and challenge to others.”

The play will run through March 5. Tickets are available through the CTC’s website or by calling 612-874-0400.

January 24 – March 5, 2023
Children’s Theater Company’s Cargill Stage – 2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis
Tickets start from $15.00
(612) 874-0400

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