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Young, female and Black

New England premiere of ‘BLKS’ debuts at Speakeasy Stage

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Young, female and Black
(left to right) Kelsey Fonise, Shanelle Chole Villegas and Thomika Marie Bridwell. PHOTO: Nile Scott Studios

This week, Speakeasy Stage Company presents the New England premiere of “BLKS,” a raw, raunchy and real comedy by playwright Aziza Barnes about Black womanhood. Running Oct. 29-Nov. 20, the production follows three Black women trying to navigate life and relationships in a city that doesn’t prioritize or even embrace them.

Thomika Marie Bridwell PHOTO: Nile Scott Studios

For local actress Thomika Marie Bridwell, who plays June, reading this script was like reading a chapter from her own life. “This was an opportunity to play somebody that I know … June reminds me of my friends, my aunties and definitely of myself,” she says. “The other characters as well are all representative of Black women that I know and I love. It’s an honor to depict that.”

June is the queen of code-switching. She grew up in a Black family that prioritized education and works a high-paying corporate job that requires her to fit into a certain box. But with her two best friends Octavia and Imani, she can unlace the corporate corset and breathe freely as herself. When Octavia encounters an unexpected health scare, the three friends go out to celebrate one last night on the town. As the night gets wild, the friends’ relationships are put to the test.

For Bridwell, this experience is particularly powerful. The actress grew up in Roxbury and would often see shows at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts in the South End. Now, making her Speakeasy Stage debut, she has the opportunity not only to perform here, but to share the experience with her own daughter. “I would sit in the audience and imagine that one day it would be my turn,” says Bridwell. “Now my family will be able to come see me on those same stages.”

Barnes’ play has been heralded for its raw language and real energy. Though the show probes many important themes and challenges faced by Black femme women, it does so in an uproarious comedic style. The play’s content is meant for adults and includes drug use, sexual content and strong language. Bridwell hopes that Black women attending the show will feel seen and that audience members will learn from seeing the breadth of experiences and emotions on stage.

“I think seeing this show and seeing these characters in all of their nuances, all of the beautiful things, all of the messy things, definitely will paint a more colorful, and I guess broader, picture than what we traditionally have seen of what it means to be a Black femme woman,” says Bridwell. “We’re not a monolith.”