by Erica Faye Watson @ericafayewatson
They say “good things come in threes” and Bronzeville native Tina Fakhrid-Deen is a college professor, published author and playwright who is a shining example of a triple threat. She was recently blessed with 3 amazing opportunities that are setting her career on fire! First, her creative writing has earned the 2020 winter/spring MacDowell Colony Fellowship (which is the oldest and most prestigious artist colonies in the nation). Second, she just received a developmental partnership with Theater on the Lake’s “In the Works” series. And in perfect “Third time’s the charm” fashion, her play “Pulled Punches” will make its World Premiere in Chicago this spring. Truly, Tina is the charm that the Chicago Arts Scene is lucky to have.
What made you decide to follow your passion and start writing plays?
I have always loved performance! I majored in performance studies in undergrad, so I was always more focused on the literary aspect of theatre. One of the most frequent comments I about my writing was that people could see and hear it. Since dialogue is a strength of mine and I love reading and watching plays, I decided to try my hand at writing one. I feel like it’s the perfect merge of my interests and I believe we all have a few stories in us to tell! Finding the right medium is key.
What inspires you to write a particular piece?
I have written three full-length plays, Powerless Gods, Dandelions and Pulled Punches. I am fascinated by humans, and their contradictions and nuance. I am inspired by trying to make sense of the human condition in its many forms. And I love my community and am trying to add more voices and experiences to the canon.
Last year, your first play Powerless Gods was presented at Oakton College. Tell us about that production.
Set against the backdrop of the police killing of Laquan McDonald, over 50 school closings, and some of the highest shooting related deaths in Chicago history, Powerless Gods is about Gerald Goss, the conservative African- American founder and principal of Hopewell Charter School who intends to single-handedly transform his community through educating the youth.
Most recently your play DANDELIONS was the recipient of the Theater On The Lake: In the Works New Play Development Award. Tell us about the play and the experience.
Dandelions bears witness to how we deal with trauma as a community. In this story, set in 2018, King Davis is a recovering addict whose only legacy is the six-flat building in Bronzeville that his mother owns and it is in immediate threat of being taken from his family due to mounting back taxes. This drama is about survival, loss, displacement, and redemption. I am so excited to have been chosen as the winner and to have an opportunity to develop new work. This has been an amazing process and I’m so very thankful.
You also participated in the Women’s Theater Alliance (WTA) play workshop where a short excerpt from your play Pulled Punch was presented. What was the workshop experience like?
WTA was so nurturing and helpful to my writing process. How often do you get writers, directors and actors in the same room to workshop for months on end to refine your work? I learned so much and met so many brilliant women-identified writers. WTA also created a bridge between new playwrights and the theater community and that was invaluable. I look forward to working with them again in the future.
How do you bring your Chicago experience into your work?
I am a proud, life-long Chicagoan raised on caramel and cheese popcorn, butter cookies, kimchee, Italian icies, and elotes! I have the distinct privilege of having lived all over the Chicagoland area – west, north, south, and various suburbs. I truly claim all the sides of the city because they are all part of what makes me who I am whether it’s the Village, Rogers Park, Englewood or Bronzeville. These formative experiences have shown me how rich this city is and how diverse, yet similar the people are. I adore this city and am trying to showcase the beauty and complexity of its residents in my writing. I love Bronzeville and love the powerful legacy of this neighborhood. My trilogy, with two of three of those plays written, are set in Bronzeville. This community is a character in its own right. I want to be like our beloved Gwendolyn Brooks, soaking up everyday people and weaving their everyday magic and might throughout my work.
What is next for you?
In February I am attending the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire followed by The World Premiere of “Pulled Punches” will be presented by MPAACT at The Greenhouse Theater April 17- May 3, 2020. Tickets can be purchased at www.greenhousetheater.org/ pulledpunchestickets. Lastly, stay tuned for a developmental production of Dandelions presented by Theater on The Lake during the 2020 summer season.