BWW Interview: Kevis Hillocks in PASS OVER at Luna Stage
Antoinette Nwandu's searing and poetic new play Pass Over will be performed at Luna Stage in West Orange from February 6 to March 1. The play premiered at Steppenwolf in Chicago, where it was filmed by Spike Lee and launched considerable press controversy. It then moved to Lincoln Center where it was awarded the 2019 Lucille Lortel Award for Best New Play.
Directed by Devin E. Haqq, Pass Over is a provocative, contemporary mashup of Waiting for Godot and the Exodus saga. Moses and Kitch stand around on the corner talking smack, passing the time, and hoping that today a miracle will come. They stand by a lamppost in a present-day ghetto, but it's also a plantation, and it's also Egypt, a city built by slaves. In this world, the two young black men dream about a promised land they've yet to find.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Kevis Hillocks who plays Moses in Pass Over.
Hillocks is a Brooklyn, New York native. Off Broadway: X or Betty Shabazz v. the Nation (The Acting Company). Regional/touring: Julius Caesar (The Acting Company). International theatre: Ruined (Greek Festival '16). Other New York and regional theatre: Pirira (Luna Stage), College Colors (Crossroads Theatre), You Are Know The Owner of This Suitecase (Theatre 167), Morning Sun (Theatre 167),Thoughts of a Colored Man (Noisy Tenants), King Lear (The Public). TV: Blue Bloods. Film: Pebble Beach. Training: Ted Sluburski Studios- Scene Study, Acting Conservatory (BFA), SUNY Purchase College. I'd like to dedicate this run to my recently deceased grandparents Castian and Jean Matthews, your smiles are still bright in my eyes.
When did you first realize you were destined for a performance career.
I believe my performance career found me: it all started in high school when I was apart of an after school program that brought AIDS/HIV awareness to various communities in Brooklyn. I joined the improv part of the program and gave the skits my all. A man named Chesney Snow - who is now my mentor - co-ran the improv department and suggested I look into an acting career. So during my senior year of high school I started applying for acting schools instead of law schools, which had been my focus at that time.
We'd love to know more about your education at SUNY Purchase.
I honestly don't believe I'd be where I am now without Purchase. Getting accepted was a surprise since I had to audition and became one of nineteen, out of the thousands who also auditioned. Going in I was very green compared to my peers who had more experience with the world of acting; however, I felt being green worked to my benefit because I became a sponge, able to soak up all the education. Now I have an immense tool box to draw from when it comes to the various roles I've had to play.
You have very impressive and varied credits. What are some of the challenges of working in different mediums and genres?
One of the biggest challenges I've faced recently is the difference between theater vs. film and TV. Because I have strong training in theater I've had to learn how to switch gears when it comes to being on camera. What I've learned is how to laser focus on camera, where on stage, I'd have more full-bodied choices and expression. They are two totally different worlds and finding a comfortable version of myself on camera is what I'm currently working on.
How do you like working in NJ at Luna Stage?
I love Luna Stage, and besides knowing and having worked with Ari Laura Kreith for many years now, I've always felt a warm welcome from the staff. I believe because their office is one of the first things you see walking into Luna, they're always there open to receive and give a welcome to start the day off.
Pass Over has been a controversial play. Why do you think the time is right for it to be presented to Luna Stage audiences?
Racial bias is nothing new to America, this is a play that I feel will always be relevant until we address racism in this nation. This play being at Luna Stage will open a dialogue about judging a book by its cover. I've always found that it's easy to judge people like Moses and Kitch if you hear them just living their lives while you walk past them on the street. One may think wow these dudes are either about to fight or commit a crime, when all they're doing is hanging out and being themselves. We've heard in the news cops being called on black people while they're having a good time and cops being quick to draw and shoot black bodies. I believe this play will show many people that language and tone doesn't always translate and being different doesn't mean being a threat.
Can you tell us a little about your role as Moses in the show?
My role as Moses, is the role of a leader and big brother to Kitch, which is a heavy weight to carry. Kitch is easily distracted and always having to keep up with Moses, but at the same time Moses would be lost without Kitch. Moses needs a reminder that he has others looking up to him. I believe this speaks to the theme of community - we need each other to succeed. Another side to Moses is even a strong leader has his moments of doubt and needs to sometimes fake it till they make it.
What would you like audiences to know about the show?
Moses has a line that goes something like "why're we fixated on heaven, I want that good life right now" I'd like the audience to know that in the midst of Moses and Kitch's playfulness they're in the pursuit of something greater, the promised land, because its a place better than where they are now. While at the same time questioning why can't we have that miracle right now in life.
Can you share with us any of your future plans?
As of now I'm staying open to receive any blessings that are meant for me, I'm always on the look out for new works and artistic growth.
Pass Over will be at Luna Stage from 2/6 to 3/1. The theatre is located in the Valley Arts District at 555 Valley Road, West Orange, NJ 07052. Tickets are $20-$40 and are available at https://www.lunastage.org/ or by calling OvationTix (866) 811-4111. Opening Night tickets are $60 and include a post-show party with cast and creative team. For group sales, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kevis Hillocks