Rep Stage to Honor Black History Month with HOME, 2/27-3/17
Rep Stage, the professional Equity theatre in residence at Howard Community College (HCC), continues its 20th anniversary season with "Home," Samm-Art Williams' brilliantly inventive, lyrically expressive play that tells the coming-of-age story of a young black man, Cephus Miles, from rural North Carolina. From beginning to end - and through tragedy and triumph - Cephus never loses his joyful goodwill, his indomitable spirit, and the conviction that one day his quest for fulfillment with be rewarded. "Home" stars returning Rep Stage actors Felicia Curry and Fatima Quander, as well as Rep newcomer Robert Lee Hardy in the role of Cephus Miles.
"Home" opens February 27 with a limited run through March 17 in the Studio Theatre of the Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center (HVPA) on the campus of HCC.
A post-show reception follows the Saturday, March 2, evening performance and free post-show discussions follow performances on Friday, March 8 and 15. During the March 15 discussion, Rep Stage artists will be joined by Gavin Witt, associate artistic director at Center Stage, and other special guests from Center Stage.
Dr. Faedra Carpenter, assistant professor of dramaturgy and contemporary performance at the University of Maryland, will present her lecture, "The Poetry in Everyday Speech: Samm-Art Williams' play 'Home' and the Negro Ensemble Company," on Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 16, in the HVPA's Monteabaro Hall. Both lectures begin at 12:30 p.m. and the March 16 lecture will precede the Saturday matinee performance. Both lectures are free and open to the public. Visit www.repstage.org for tickets and additional information.
According to a New York Times interview with Williams, a holiday Greyhound bus to North Carolina in 1976 was the inspiration for "Home." "There was nothing on that bus but black people going South at Christmastime. That's where the whole germ started. I began to look at those people. They were drinking. They were happy. They were glad to be going back. But you could see a whole lot of distress. And you knew what they had to come back North to." Williams says he wrote "Home" to create "a nice, simple, warm play...a play that an audience could sort of wrap its arms around and embrace...I was pleased that people could accept just a simple play about love and romance and simple earth folk."
"Home" was produced to great acclaim by the Negro Ensemble Company in 1980 before being transferred to Broadway.
"I have long admired 'Home' because of Samm-Art Williams' unseen hand as a playwright," says Michael Stebbins, Rep Stage's producing artistic director. "Much like the late, great American playwright Horton Foote, whose gentle writing captures 'real people' and puts them on the stage, the beauty, humor and heartache that comes from someone like Mr. Williams is a rare gift. There is no need for technical wizardry or stage gimmickry. There are no 'red herrings.' We are never pulled out of Cephus Miles' journey because we are fully immersed in it from the word 'go.' This is the work of a very sensitive playwright whose craft does not show. And there are not, in my opinion, many who possess this skill."
Samm-Art Williams (playwright) was born in Philadelphia and raised in The Farming community of Burgaw, North Carolina. As a playwright and actor, Williams journeyed far from home but remained inspired by the life and language of the rural south. As a member of the Negro Ensemble Company throughout the seventies, Williams participated both on and offstage as a playwright and actor, including appearing in the 1975 Broadway production of Leslie Lee's "The First Breeze of Summer." "Home" was first staged by the Negro Ensemble Company at St. Mark's Playhouse in 1979 before transferring to Broadway in 1980, where it earned nominations for the Tony and Drama Desk Awards. Both plays were eventually revived off-Broadway by New York's Signature Theatre in 2008. Williams won the 1980 John Gassner Playwriting Award from the Outer Critics' Circle for "Home," plus a 1988 Emmy Award Nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series for his role as story editor for the series "Frank's Place." Other television credits include his work as a writer/producer on the popular show "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." He is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Williams holds a B.A degree from Baltimore's Morgan State University in Political Science/Psychology. He joined the faculty of North Carolina Central University in 2007 as an artist-in-residence to teach playwriting, television writing and production. He now resides back home, in Burgaw, N.C.
While "Home" marks Duane Boutté's Maryland directorial debut, Rep Stage audiences may remember the New York-based artist as an actor in the 2009-10 production of "On the Verge, or the Geography of Yearning." Boutté has performed locally in Center Stage's "Les Blancs," Arena Stage's "Cuttin' Up," the Shakespeare Theatre Company's "The Tempest," and in Woolly Mammoth's "Civil Sex." He trained as an actor at UCLA and The National Theatre Conservatory and has performed at Berkeley Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Goodman Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, McCarter Theatre, Denver Center and Dallas Theatre Center. On Broadway, he performed in the Lincoln Center's "Parade" and played Enoch Snow, Jr., in the 1994 Tony Award-winning revival of "Carousel." His films include "Stonewall" and "Brother to Brother," both released to critical acclaim. Boutté directed his first full production, Tony Sportiello's "LOL," in 2009. Other directing credits include "Lear Inherited" and "Othello" in New York and "Stalag 17" in his hometown of Fresno, CA. He is a member of Vineyard Theatre's "Community of Artists."
Baltimore Native Robert Lee Hardy (Cephus Miles) received his bachelor's degree in acting from State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase's Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film in 2005. His television and film credits include HBO'S critically acclaimed series "The Wire" as well as "The Weeping City," "Jamesy Boy," "Jazz In The Diamond District," and the film version of the play "Me, Myself and Us," which he authored and produced. "Me, Myself and Us" enjoyed a Baltimore premiere at the Charles Theatre, a Washington, D.C. premiere at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, and a Los Angles Industry showing. Recent stage credits include "Me, Myself and Us," "Julius X," "Flyin West," and "The Three Sisters." He coaches young actors in The Youth Theatre program for Baltimore's Arena Players and the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute.
Felicia Curry (Woman One; Patti Mae) returns to Rep Stage where she appeared in "Tintypes" in 2006. She came to the Washington, D.C., area from New Jersey to earn her degree at the University of Maryland, College Park. Recently, she co-hosted the 28th annual Helen Hayes Awards at the Warner Theatre. New York City theatre appearances include "Petite Rouge" and national tours include "Willy Wonka" and "Barbie Live!" Regional and D.C. audiences will remember Felicia from "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," "Rapunzel," "The Wings of Ikarus Jackson," "A Christmas Carol," and "Civil War" at Ford's Theatre; "Lily's Purple Plastic Purse" (DC Theatre Scene's 2012 Audience Choice Award for Favorite Actress in a Family Show in the Adventure Theater production), "Mirandy and the Brother Wind," and "Les Miserables" at the Signature Theatre (receiving a Helen Hayes nomination and an award for Best Ensemble); and "Aida" at Toby's (Helen Hayes nomination) among others. For the D.C. Capitol Fringe Festival she appeared in "Dizzy Miss Lizzie's Roadside Revue," which was just named the 2013 recipient of the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Emerging Theatre. Felicia performs regularly with the Capitol Steps political satire group.
Fatima Quander (Woman Two; Myrna) last appeared at Rep Stage in "Las Meninas." Other credits include "A Raisin in the Sun" at Everyman Theatre; "24, 7, 365" with Theater of the First Amendment; "Locomotion" at the Kennedy Center; "Much Ado About Nothing" at the Folger Elizabethan Theatre; "Junebug and the Reverend" at Imagination Stage; "Coming Home" with Tribute Productions; "African Roots/Latino Soul" and "Retratos" with the Discovery Theater; and The Kennedy Center's "Imagination Celebration" touring production of "Color Me Dark." Fatima is also a company member with Young Playwrights' Theater, a Washington, D.C., theatre-education non-profit that teaches students to express themselves clearly and creatively through the art of playwriting. A native Washingtonian, Fatima received her M.F.A from the famed Actors Studio Drama School in New York City.
The "Home" Design Team includes James Fouchard (scenic design), Dan Covey (lighting design), Neil McFadden (sound design), Natalia Chavez Leimkuhler (properties design), Celestine Ranney-Howes (costume design), Renee Brozic Barger (movement), and Nancy Krebs (vocal and dialect coach).
Rep Stage, a professional Equity theatre in residence at Howard Community College, is in its 20th season. The company is a member of the League of Washington Theatres, the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance and Theatre Communications Group. Rep Stage is recognized by Theatre Washington as a professional DC Metro area theater company and is eligible for the Helen Hayes Awards.