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October 2016 BOLD Woman of the Month: Hollis Heath, NYC

@ Heartofhollis on Twitter and IG.

We are Bold! An organization that exist to build up black women in the performing arts for the restoration of culture. We truly believe black women have and will change the world, and want to spotlight women who are doing just that! Every month we will introduce you to one of our amazing BOLD women in our movement. We ask 7 specific questions, which highlight the very different and unique journeys each one of us has, and hear about what has inspired them to shape culture through the performing arts.

This month we had the opportunity to chat with Hollis Heath one of our fierce BOLD sisters and we are so excited to share with you! Check out the interview below:

In which part(s) of ‘the biz’ are you involved?

I’m a theatre artist and educator. I write, I act, and I teach. I use theatre as the basis for all of the work I do with young people.

Where are you from?

I am a NYC native. I was born and raised in the incredible village of Harlem.

What made you stay in New York for school and post-grad?

When it was time to apply for college, I just knew that there was more in the city that I wanted to explore as a young adult and I wanted to stay close to the epicenter of cultural arts.

What is your favorite part about the work you do?

Oooh, that’s hard. Well, there a two things that come to mind. As a playwright, I love the editing process. Going back over a monologue or bit of dialogue and spending hours to get it just right. Really polishing, and cutting it down to get to the core of what I’m trying to say, and then finally nailing it, I love that.

Both as an artist and educator, I love the reflection process that can happen with the audience or participants. On the stage, that reflection looks like a talkback. There’s nothing like hearing from the audience what they experienced from your piece. With students in the classroom, hearing their reflections at the close of a session and identifying what they took away from a workshop I created or led is just the most marvelous feeing, especially if the response is in line with my original objective. I love and appreciate feedback in those moments.

What is a challenge you face or a challenge you have overcome in your career?

Accepting and owning that my career is multi-faceted. For a long time I felt like a fraud around my artist friends because in this moment in my life, I spend much more of my time in the classroom or writing curriculums than I do auditioning or on stage. But in spaces where educators are the majority, I often feel like an outsider, because I know that I’m an artist and especially as a Black woman, there’s just a perspective that I bring to youth development that’s unique and often totally different. I’m finally learning to celebrate the duality of my identity and recognize that I’m privileged to have access to both spaces. That they’re both honorable pursuits. My work as a youth development leader directly informs my artistry just as much as my artistry impacts how I approach my work with young people. I am learning to own both parts of the work I do, while not letting either define me or my value.

What project have you worked on that you are really proud of? What is a dream project for you?

This year, the production company I have with my dear friends celebrated year five of our play, Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale. It’s a piece we wrote, and star in, and have been recognized for. It’s the story of our neighborhood and we’ve been able to share it in venues around the nation for the past 5 years. Recognizing that we were able to capture a story that still resonates with so many people, is special, so it’s absolutely one of the things I am most proud of.

A project I’d really love to be a part of seeing come to the screen or stage is the life story of Maya Angelou.

When have you felt BOLD?

I felt bold this past Spring when I was invited to speak at the White House and share on a panel addressing the issues millennial women face. A few nights before the event I read the bios of the women that I’d be sharing the stage with. They were all innovative and dynamic and smart, so then I felt super intimidated, like I didn’t belong. As I got on the platform I remembered something that a colleague once told me. She said, “Honey, you have to bring belonging with you.” So, for me, this Harlem girl to sit on that stage, at the White House, share my story, and affirm the transformative power of art, and choose to belong, that felt beautiful and definitely bold.

Thank you Hollis for sharing your story! You are BOLD! Be sure to follow us on instagram to see how this Bold soul sister is changing the world!

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