Junie Edwards (Lonnie) in "Locomotion" at Children's Theatre Company - photo by Glen Stubbe Photography
“Locomotion” is based on the award-winning book by Jacqueline Woodson. It’s about a young boy, Lonnie, who discovers poetry at a difficult moment in his life. Talvin Wilks directs the show:
“For me, this story, focusing on a young black boy, aged 11, navigating the foster care system, trying to keep a sense of his family together, and his relationship with his sister, coming of age and coming up maturity, and really understanding those types of struggles, I think, is a very important story for us all to witness,” Wilks said.
Wilks says while he did not go through the same struggles as Lonnie, he identifies with the use of art to overcome adversity.
“The struggle inside of the play is Lonnie trying to understand the world around him, and trying to find a way to express that world through poetry,” said Wilks. “For me there have been many times in my life when trying to understand certain challenges, it was important for me to explore through the theater. It was my place where I could work out the struggles and the issues and my anger and frustration with those issues within our culture and why they remain.”
Wilks says children’s theater has the power to inspire audiences to reflect on issues with greater empathy, allowing them to see past differences.
“Seeing ourselves brought to life and the things that we're struggling with, it allows us to cross barriers, cross boundaries, cross race, class, ethnicity, really to come together as a human community, to really think about the betterment of our society. What the young people are giving is a great gift for us to witness ourselves,” Wilks said.
Wilks says the rollercoaster of emotions experienced by Lonnie reflects the ever expanding experiences within the concept of Blackness.
“The empathy, the sadness, the joy,” Wilks reflected. “I think it's very important that we continue to see young Black artists on our stages telling stories around our very specific experiences. And how we are the same and how we are different, and the importance of that difference in really expanding our sense of an understanding of ourselves.”
Ultimately, Wilks says “Locomotion” is a tale of loss, longing, and grief that, through poetry, is transformed into a beautiful story of belonging.
“Locomotion” runs through March 5th at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis.