We had the good fortune of connecting with Holly Charles, M.A. and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Holly, what role has risk played in your life or career?
The word ‘risk’ has such a negative connotation. Many only consider the potential downside of taking risks. I am in no way a daredevil, thrill-seeking risk taker, but I do believe that risk taking is a necessary step towards self-fulfilment. If I only pursued what I knew was guaranteed, I wouldn’t have accomplished much. I’ve had many missteps, but they have taught me more than success ever could.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I didn’t just decide to become a playwright or create a theater company that focuses on stories of social injustice. I never dreamt that big. Simply put, I love stories, language, the human condition, etc. And, when I first heard about the destruction of the largest ex-slave settlement in the United States (Houston’s Fourth Ward’s Freedmen’s Town), the destruction of Black History, I felt a pang in my heart for all of the stories that were being knocked down, brick by brick. I found myself dreaming, imagining and then writing a story about our ancestors. Before I knew it, I had become a regular on the streets of Freedmen’s Town, asking questions, attending events, and pestering anyone who could provide more fuel for this burgeoning fire. I was dead set on historical accuracy and a dignified Black narrative. Then, I spent the better part of a year producing and raising funds for my first stage play, “In All Thy Getting: The Forgotten Story of Freedmen’s Town”. I became obsessed with entertaining and informing people at the same time. That obsession has not been quelled, as I’ve established Houston Play On Purpose, a nonprofit theater company, and produced two more plays bringing light to underserved populations. In 2018, I tackled the growing epidemic of infertility in women of color with “I’m Still a Woman”; in 2019, I addressed the disproportionate number of Black and Brown children being funnelled into both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems with “Black, White & Sunshine”. The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily postponed our 2020 production of “Blue Spectrum”, which addresses homelessness as a result of physical and psychological trauma, particularly in Veterans and sex traffic victims. HPOP is different from most theater companies because its entire goal is to promote social progress. Each production has collaborated with experts and professional organizations to give our audiences support once they’ve left the theater. Our brand of theater is a salve, a healing agent for those who feel forgotten.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I’ve been known to pick friends up from the airport and head straight to the Breakfast Klub for chicken and waffles. There’s no greater welcome to H-Town than that. Then, I’d head over to Discovery Green for a festival or market in the heart of downtown Houston. And, for the adventurous guest, I’d take them biking with Let’s Do This 3rd Ward Bike Tours to show them just why Houston is known for ridin’ slow!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The Houston Black Leadership Institute did for me exactly what the name implies. Steered by a committee of intellectual superheroes, (Errol Allen II, Teneshia Babalola, Elijah Williams, Michael Lactson and Niiobli Armah IV) not only honed my networking skills, but they also gave me the essential tools to becoming an effective leader. HBLI made room for me to use my skillset in a way that enhanced my community. I was encouraged to use my gift of writing and organizing to effect change. Upon completion of the program, I had the support of not only my classmates, but the steering committee and participating organizations. HBLI changed my life in ways I could not have predicted. The program empowered me and, thus, every movement I’ve set in motion through the arts.
Facebook: Houston Play On Purpose
Other: https://abc13.com/society/crossroads—march-26-2017—segment-4/1827116/ https://www.houstonpress.com/arts/preview-i-am-still-a-woman-at-match-10650168
Photographer: Angeline Abrera Graphic Designer: Devin Venters