Lorretta Hawkins as Harriet Tubman in her performance poem, "Dese Shoes," a selection from Collaboraction Theatre Company's Encounter series // photo by Tony Duvall

Art is a medium ripe for the exploration of life’s complexities, such as racism, and the varying perspectives on such issues. Collaboraction Theatre Company, a 21-year-old nonprofit based in Wicker Park, understands the importance of using art to cultivate dialogues around difficult topics. So the company curated Encounter – a series of plays and visual art centered around race and healing in Chicago. After a two-week run as a winter festival, Encounter now is touring the Chicago Park District circuit.

On Saturday, Encounter will make a stop at La Follette Park (1333 N. Laramie Ave) on Chicago’s West Side. Beginning at 3 PM, the free event will feature six productions: including “Dese Shoes,” a poem by Loretta Hawkins in which Harriet Tubman returns from heaven to offer guidance to her people, and “Racism 101,” a documentary film featuring Chicagoans and their first experiences with racism. After the 70-minute lineup, Collaboraction’s Anthony Moseley and Marcus Robinson, the artistic director and managing director respectively, will lead a 25-minute town hall discussion on healing in Chicago.

We caught up with Moseley and Robinson to learn more about Encounter.

The TRiiBE: Why La Follette Park? Why should the Austin neighborhood come see Encounter?

Anthony Moseley: It’s a free show at a Chicago Park District jewel, La Follette Park. Our main thing is that we don’t think what’s happening in Chicago is normal. We believe art is a powerful tool to incite action. We want people from Austin to come out. We also want people from the Northside, Southside, Eastside and downtown to show support and be a part of this discussion. When I see people leaving Encounter, I see people walking out like a community; the same way people left out of theatres after watching…

TT: … Black Panther?

AM: Yes, exactly. There is a little pep in their step. It is a little bit more pride in their chest. People are connecting from this shared experience in ways that are just beautiful.

TT: Is Collaboraction Theatre Company a Black-owned organization?

Marcus Robinson: The Collaboraction Theatre is a nonprofit. So no one owns it, per se. However, the board is more than 60 percent African-American. [The board is] responsible for the organization. Top management is majority African American, Asian and white. People of color are included in our shows. No one is left out.

Anthony Moseley (left) and Marcus Robinson (right) // photo by Tony Duvall

TT: How many of the actors and actresses for Encounter are Black and from Chicago?

AM: For the Encounter tour, our cast is very diverse but majority Black. For [Saturday’s show], we have plenty of Chicagoans. Loretta Hawkins is a Chicago treasure. She is the author of the poem, “Dese Shoes,” which she performs as Harriet Tubman. Then we have Dana N. Anderson [who wrote] “Soul in Suburbia,” a play about a Black girl growing up in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. We also have Jharmaine Boyd who wrote a play, “The Blue Eyed Devil,” about a Chicago 1940s interracial couple. All of the selections in Encounter cover racism in Chicago and how we respond to that.

TT: Each show is followed by a town hall. Who facilitates the town hall and what is the goal?

MR: The town hall is co-facilitated by Anthony and I. The town hall is a great way for people to reflect on all of their thoughts [and] ideas that came to them. The goal is for audience members to find a way to activate their power to heal our communities.

TT: And there will be free food, you say?

AM: Yes. Macaroni and cheese, fruit salad and other food brought to you by the delicious restaurant, Son of a Butcher by Whisk.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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