BROOKLYN QUARTET

StyleRedefine.com

Rock WILK is magic, movement and momentum both on stage and off, known for his widely received, debut play, Broke Wide Open - a true story about his incessant search for HOME and its meaning from the perspective of an adoptee. Rock's new play, Brooklyn Quartet is about love, friendship, and white privilege. Poignant, uncensored and beautifully scripted, Rock WILK takes on the roles of four, incredible characters, two of which includes a Black male and Latina female living in America, dealing with the social issues of our zeitgeist. Performed with the right amount comedic sassiness, depth and sensitivity, Rock WILK is inspiration walking, often running through the streets of New York City, or riding the subway where he writes and rehearses his plays - truth, stank, and the "F" word included. Committed to the improvement of humanity through the contribution of meaningful theater art that creates dialogue, Rock founded the 50 Shots in 10 days campaign, which offers survivors of gun violence a platform to share their story with the general public, in conjunction with performances of Brooklyn Quartet. Onboard, and in the audience of Brooklyn Quartet's recent opening run at the Medicine Show Theater, were the parents of the late Sean Bell (killed by New York City Police). After the show, Style Redefine caught up with Rock WILK in this exclusive interview!

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What type of 'trendsetter' would you categorize yourself as?

A Passionate Trendsetter

Photography by Ebony Brown

You've launched the 50ShotIn10Days campaign to raise awareness and to bring attention to victims of gun violence. That is amazing! Share how you've lived an inspired inner stylish life.

Well, I never really looked at it like that, so I guess I would have to say that my work IS my life, and so that must be my "style" as well, I guess. I only write work and perform work that I really care about, work that I feel has the potential to make some kind of contribution to a greater good, if that makes sense, work that creates dialogue. I often say that I always intend to create art that disrupts things, that takes people out of their comfort zone in a way that brings us all together, at least that's my hope with everything that I embark upon. And so with regards to my 50ShotIn10Days campaign, it's the same thing, it's really just about me reminding people that these survivors of gun violence are people just like the rest of us who have been fortunate enough to have avoided something as horrific as taking a bullet.  And regardless of the circumstances that brought on that event, that these people are human beings just like the rest of us, they have mothers and sisters and friends and fathers.  They went to the park every day to play basketball and went to school every day, just like you and me and all of us, they like music and movies and chocolate, and pancakes, and most importantly, many people love them who really know them. They have lives, and so they are not simply "statistics" or "incidents", and so........ I guess my style is to not only talk about things of that nature all the time, as I do, Incessantly, (and I'm sure I annoy plenty of people with all of that).  But also my style is to live a life that is committed to never allowing anyone who knows me, or who receives my art, to ever forget that we must continue to work at making a better, safer and more equitable world, for everyone.

Photography by Ebony Brown

In your play, Brooklyn Quartet, you've touched on the topics of racism, sexism, privilege, sexual abuse, police brutality, love, friendship, humanity, and resilience. Topics that may be considered controversial at times, do you feel that your show is getting the recognition, or respect that it deserves?: 

That's not for me to say, to be honest, but since you asked... I would have to say, no, I don't think it's getting the recognition it should be getting, but I think any artist would feel that way at the stage this work is currently at. I mean, I want to do this play at places like The Public Theatre here in NYC, at BAM (BROOKLYN Quartet... makes sense, right?).  I want to go to regional theaters all over the country and get to do talkbacks. I want to get into communities everywhere and create a safe place to talk about all of the issues Brooklyn Quartet broaches.  I think that's crucial, and honestly, in my opinion, issues that are sometimes difficult for people to talk about are without question, easier to receive when the message comes via art, specifically theater in my case.  I mean, I am going into these places and doing the story, as opposed to telling it.  And so, thru these characters, these crazy kids from Brooklyn, people can actually see this "slice of life" that I have created and maybe (hopefully) see themselves in some of the scenarios that show up in Brooklyn Quartet.

 And so, yeah, I want everyone on the planet earth to see this play. Actually, my hope (and intention) with Brooklyn Quartet is that everyone who sees it can see a part of themselves in all of the characters.  In other words, if they are black, they can see a little bit of them self in the white character, and if they are white, they can relate to the black character, and even with regards to gender.  I think many men will relate to Esther Alvarez in my play, who is Latina, and I also think many women will see a lot of themselves in the 2 boys.

Your audience has been folks from all walks of life who, for the most part, seems to have had very visceral, and overwhelmingly positive responses to your work after seeing it, what do you think it's going to take to catapult your work to the next level?

Opportunity and my commitment to continuing. I can only do what I can control, the rest is up to the universe, but what I can do is continue to grow as an artist, keep writing and challenging myself, and exploring myself as a playwright and a performer, and then continue to create as many opportunities as I can myself to share my work. My first play, Broke Wide Open was developed in the streets, literally, over 6 years, every day of my life, in parks and public spaces all over.  First New York City, and then eventually all over the world and ultimately wound up running Off-Broadway for about 3 months.  The response to my work has always been awesome and humbling, and so, that is also my style, to not wait for anyone, and to just continue creating not only the work but the opportunities to share.

Having said that, I want to be accepted into the conventional theater world as well, I don't always want to be looked at as that guy who is creating work on the street all the time, I would love to see Brooklyn Quartet on a marquee somewhere on Broadway or the West End in the UK, The Mark Taper Forum in LA, Steppenwolf in Chicago, places like that, I am always hoping for opportunities like that, and I will continue to work toward all of that, but regardless, my work never stops. I get up every day and do the work, that keeps me alive.

Photography by Ebony Brown

These days children, teens, and young adults are victims of being bullied on the internet and at school. It has even lead to violence or suicide, which has grown tremendously over the past few years. Have you ever been bullied? If you had the opportunity to say one thing to a person being bullied, what would you say? If you can say one thing to the bully what would that be?

I was fortunate in my life, where I've never really been bullied. I was a really good athlete as a kid, and I think that kind of gave me a pass on that, but I have been around many people who have been bullied, and so, what would I say????? Hmmm... I would say, tell everybody that you can. Put it out in the open. Don't ever hide the fact that you are being harassed because I really believe that most people are good, and the more people who know, the more support you will get and the less chance it will continue. I just feel like if you stay quiet and keep something like that to yourself, you are playing into exactly what that bully wants, an environment of FEAR and ISOLATION. Which is the only place a bully can thrive, so get them out into the world, let everyone know.  I feel like you will find a community that will provide you, and everyone in that community, the protection, safety and comfort we all should have while navigating through our everyday lives.

And what would I say to the bully????? I would ask them...YO, Bully.... what happened to YOU that makes you want to control someone else's existence in that way? What are YOU afraid of?  There are other things for you to focus on that would make your life better! What I'm saying is, I would have a real, extended conversation with that bully, I would spend some real time with them, I would try to engage them in a conversation that would guide them to begin to explore what is going on inside of THEM. I guess I feel like when you take the time to really talk to ANYONE in a real and focused, intimate way, that type of connection is what changes people's behavior, and actually literally can change a person at their core. At least I think it can. To know that someone actually cares enough to listen to them, even after they have been identified as the perpetrator.  We just have to look for the good in that person and drag it out of them, I will always believe you can find good in all of us. Actually, that is what 50ShotIn10Days is about. Some of the participants got shot because they weren't doing the "right thing" at that particular moment in their lives, but one thing each of them have in common today is that they are ALL living their lives in SERVICE to others, and so, change is possible for the better, and hopefully not everyone has to get shot to get to a better place in their life.

What is the one thing you know now that you would tell a younger version of yourself?

Listen more. Trust more. Be more patient with your process. 

What's your 2 top pet peeves, when it comes to your work or everyday life? 

People who say "I don't give a f*ck" (can I curse here?) I HATE hearing that and never believe it. I guess my other "pet peeve" would be people who either text or "social media message" about important things, to be honest, even not so important stuff.  People who want to really communicate in that way, I'm very into hearing your voice or seeing you and your face, that other stuff really bores me after a while, it leaves me empty. I use social media for work, period, anyone really close to me shares meals with me from time to time and knows exactly what my voice sounds like and how my face moves when I use that voice.

If you weren't doing what you're doing now what would you be doing?

Feeling empty and kind of broken hearted because I wouldn't be doing what I know I should be doing.

Although you've been acting for a while, do you still get nervous/anxious before performing and how do you deal with it?

I never get nervous, being on stage, for me, is the safest place on earth. I get more nervous for interviews, and the only way to deal with that is to always tell the truth.

When it comes to your outer style, let's say fashion, what style category would you fall under? What's your go-to brand/outfit, must haves?

Wow, I'm an epic fail here. I think people who know me were probably SHOCKED when they saw me in these fitted Italian suits for my last run of Brooklyn Quartet.  I like to be comfortable, I'm pretty casual, and so, I guess hip hop culture has influenced my sense of what I wear, as it has pretty much everyone in the world.  And so, I'm not really a "fashionista", but now that I have these Tazio suits that I got up on 125th St in Harlem, and my shiny Kenneth Cole shoes that I found at Macy's down on 34th St, who knows?

I may start actually thinking about what I'm wearing off stage, but for the most part, my "go to" outerwear is all about my running gear. I run every day, and so I always have some great running shoes, like Asics or Saucony or even Nike from time to time, and I always need to have gear to be out in the rain or cold weather, and good gear for the hot weather as well, and so, I guess that's what I mostly think about when I'm going to a store to buy something to wear. Oh, and jeans, I have to buy jeans a lot because I walk everywhere in New York City. People know I walk all over the place, I write about it all the time, and so I'm hard on my jeans and my shoes, so that is on my mind, too, from time to time. Damn, am I seriously talking about clothes now? THAT is new for me. Thanks for stretching me out! ;)

Social Media (various places)

I was privileged to be at Wednesday night’s opening of Rock Wilk ’s BROOKLYN QUARTET—his stunning new one-man hurricane of a show that exposes the savage truth of America’s white-skin privilege.

Wilk, who established his reputation as a master of multi-character, hip hop/slam poetic storytelling with BROKE WIDE OPEN two years ago, returns with QUARTET, the story of three teens in Brooklyn whose lives intertwine, enrich, and ultimately define each other. It is within this relationship—a deep and warm mingling of race and class—that the awful underbelly of America’s divide is revealed.

Mr. Wilk gives sincerely nuanced dimension to each character, and has given the story variations of pacing that at once hold attention but also allow time to reflect, and as he says, “breathe.” There is something almost uncanny in the way Wilk delivers three-way conversations, two-person arguments and adds a fourth “everyman” narrator without assuming different positions to indicate different characters—and still enables the audience never to lose track of who is speaking. I’ll repeat—that theatric accomplishment alone defines QUARTET as unique in the field.

Effective backdrop painted created by Alice Mizrachi, lighting by Noelle V. Dor.

Giselle Trujillo Magazine

Rock Wilk is one of the most unique humans on this planet.   A men who is not afraid of being honest, blunt and true to himself and to anyone as well.  A person so in tune with humanity and one of few people you can expect to activate the truth of any controversial situation.    Rock invited us to his opening night of his play “Brooklyn Quartet” a  performance of  complicated techniques and detailed characters.  His performance was impacting and explosive.  I’ve also been honored to have had such an amazing interview with Rock Wilk.    Our interview is packed with deep content you do not want to miss. 

 

Special thanks to Rock Wilk for his time and deep interview. 

 

BroadwayWorld.com

Rock WILK, playwright and performer, is combing the city for fifty survivors of gun violence who are willing to share their stories with the general public. This search is the root for the campaign, '50ShotIn10Days', coinciding with the performances of his new play, Brooklyn Quartet, which deals with many subjects, including race, privilege, relationships, and the Sean Bell shooting by the NYPD on November 25, 2006.

The '50ShotIn10Days' campaign symbolically represents the fifty shots that were fired at Sean Bell, killing him and wounding two of his friends. Each '50ShotIn10Days' participants' story will be documented and summarized. "'50ShotIn10Days' will tell not only the details of each shooting, but will also give us a window into who these fifty people are; to their families, to their friends, and most importantly, who they are to themselves, all in their own words." says Rock WILK, "My hope is that raising awareness in this way will lead to a more understanding and a more compassionate world, so that no human being is ever reduced to being a 'victim', or an 'incident', or simply a 'statistic'." The fifty survivors and their families will also be invited to the play.

"I was inspired to write Brooklyn Quartet after the Sean Bellincident in 2006, because when it happened, it just occurred to me that something like that could pretty much never happen to me, because let's face it, I don't think anyone has ever heard a story about a white person being shot at fifty times by the police, let alone by anyone. Unfortunately, I would even go as far as saying that it is a fact, that the world is a much safer place for someone who looks like me than it is for any of my friends of color, especially my friends who happen to be black males, and as sad as that fact is, I think the statistics, and some of these now infamous names like Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, and most recently Michael Brown, and many, many more who never even get to the news, pretty much support what I'm saying." explains Rock WILK.

Brooklyn Quartet, written and performed by Rock WILK, will play at the Medicine Show Theatre, 549 West 52ndStreet, Third Floor, New York, New York 10019. The play, directed by Stephen Bishop Seely, will open on March 18th and run for ten performances through March 29th. Tickets and more information are available online at www.brooklynquartet.com.

For tickets or more information on '50ShotIn10Days' or Brooklyn Quartet please go online to www.brooklynquartet.com.

Blog Talk Radio/Take 2 Radio talks about PRIVILEGE [since re-titled BROOKLYN QUARTET] with Rock WILK

Listen to this beautiful interview dealing with PRIVILEGE [since re-titled BROOKLYN QUARTET]