'SKiNFoLK' is a ‘New York Times’ Critic's Pick

BY Robbie Armstrong, March 24, 2020

SKiNFoLK: An American Show by alumna Jillian Walker ’17 was selected as a New York Times Critic’s Pick. The production had its first presentation at The Bushwick Starr as a part of the Star Reading Series in 2016. We spoke with Walker about the play’s inaugural reading in 2016. This season, SKiNFoLK returned to the Bushwick Starr with a full length production. The 2020 critically acclaimed production is directed by alumna Mei Ann Teo ’14. 


The New York Times review described the show as “Three black spirits, or perhaps nymphs, transport us to an underground cave where happiness and pain coexist, unable to distance themselves from each other. Here, they guide us through vignettes that retell Walker’s family history — and by extension, the history of America — in the hopes of reclaiming the joys of blackness in all its complexity.”


SKiNFoLK began development during Walker’s studies at Columbia. Walker cites her interest in pushing the limits of subject and form which was often a topic of discussion in her Dramaturgy studies. After appearing in the Star Reading Series, SKiNFoLK was presented as Walker’s Columbia Thesis production. SKiNFoLK continued its development in the SPARK Festival at the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera


Walker stars in the production, which merges music, poetry, and theatre into a concert/play with a free form structure. Mixing ritual, roots, and family history into a one act play, the production was presented by The Bushwick Starr and The National Black Theatre in association with Musical Theatre Factory where Teo is the Producing Artistic Director. 


Walker is a dramaturg and playwright whose award winning work has been presented at The Public Theater, The Bushwick Starr, The TEAM, Ars Nova, Rattlestick Theatre, and more. Her play Sarah’s Salt received an honorable mention for the 2017 Relentless Award. Sarah’s Salt was also a winner of the Columbia@Roundabout Reading series at Roundabout Theatre Company. Walker was a playwright in residence at her alma mater, the University of Michigan. 


Walker starred alongside Tsebiyah Mishael Derry and Lori Sinclair Minor in SKiNFoLK, which opened on February 26 and closed on March 12.