Three Questions With Actor, Writer, and Teaching Artist Bonita Jackson


Three Questions With Actor, Writer, and Teaching Artist Bonita Jackson


Author: Mac MacDaniel

July 9 and 10 at Shakespeare & Company, the Plays in Process Series presents This Soil, These Seeds… by Bonita Jackson and featuring Bonita Jackson, with music composed and played by Kristin Vining.

Infused with music, movement, and poetry, This Soil, These Seeds... tells the story of a drama therapist journeys to uncover the roots of three strangers, whose mother-daughter issues are buried deeper than seeds under soil. But instead, the strangers find themselves in an unexpected multigenerational family intervention.

Shakespeare & Company took some time to ask Jackson a few questions about the play, and what she hopes audiences take away with them.

S&Co: What stage of development is This Soil, These Seeds… in? You had a run of performances in the spring in New York City, right? Did that run inform any changes that you’re hoping to develop and further here at Shakespeare & Company?

Bonita Jackson: At this stage of development, This Soil, These Seeds… is in a process of ask, discover, refine, repeat. I never like to force anything, especially process — because it’s my favorite part! But the process can also be disheartening and filled with uncertainty, which it was for me right before I went into rehearsals for the run I did at Super Secret Arts in Brooklyn this past April. Though the heart of this piece has been present within me my whole life and I started writing it in 2018, for a long time I wasn’t sure what the play wanted to be…what it needed to be. I was able to uncover that want and need while doing the run at Super Secret Arts, which was such a profound and liberating experience. Doing that run absolutely informed changes that are currently underway with the piece. And I am so excited to have the time and space that Shakespeare & Company is affording me to continue the growth of this piece! What’s more, is developing the piece with Kristin Vining and Garrett Turner — creatives who I respect and admire so much! I already know This Soil, These Seeds… is going to be a different version of itself this go ’round! And I love that…because that is PROCESS (my fav)!

S&Co: You like to incorporate elements of magical realism into your work, is there a supernatural side to This Soil, These Seeds…?

Jackson: There is absolutely an otherworldly component within and through This Soil, These Seeds… The play takes place in a liminal space, between worlds, and generations. It is not without reality. The main space is a therapy room, so there is much realness to be imbibed. But it should almost feel as though the characters are levitating just above the ground. It’s that feeling of something being off here, or not as it should be, or not of this world — but it’s powerful and intriguing and holds me to stay. When discussing the magical component of the show, Alex Randrup, a good friend and director of the show back when I did it at Super Secret Arts had said something to the effect of…”This could be viable as a therapy room if there weren’t so many doggone plants. Or, this could be viable as a garden if there weren’t so many doggone chairs!” A lot of what I write and the stories I tell come from places of trauma and pain felt by Black women. I believe Black people have an innate magic. And when I write our stories, magic pours out.

S&Co: What do you hope that audiences take away from your play?

Jackson: As I wrote in my playwright’s note, my hope for what the audience takes away is:

“This play IS filled with humor, light, and love! You have permission to laugh and lean into the hope. You have permission to have an experience with the performers, and this may come out audibly (YES! That is welcomed!). Finally, it is my hope that you leave this space knowing that healing is possible. That your healing is essential.”

—Bonita Jackson

This interview is part of Shakespeare & Company’s #LiveinCompany social media campaign, an extension of its mission to live creatively, work collaboratively, and honor community. #LiveinCompany content highlights the words and work of visionaries in various disciplines and aims to answer the three questions at the heart of each of Shakespeare’s plays: What does it mean to be alive? How should we act? and What must I do?

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