Samm-Art Williams' HOME Directed by Kenny Leon to Launch Roundabout's The Refocus Project

The cast will feature Rob Demery, 2020 Tony Award nominee Joaquina Kalukango, Brittany Inge and Christina Sajous.

By: Apr. 29, 2021
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Samm-Art Williams' HOME Directed by Kenny Leon to Launch Roundabout's The Refocus Project

Roundabout Theatre Company is presenting The Refocus Project, a multi-year project to elevate and restore marginalized plays to the American canon. The first series of Refocus play readings, presented in association with Black Theatre United, will spotlight twentieth-century Black plays and their playwrights: Angelina Weld Grimké, Shirley Graham Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Childress and Samm-Art Williams.

On Friday, April 30 the project will launch with Samm-Art Williams' 90-minute drama HOME directed by Roundabout's Senior Resident Director Kenny Leon.

The HOME company includes Rob Demery (last seen in Leon's Tony nominated revival of A Soldier's Play), Joaquina Kalukango (Tony nominee for Slave Play), Brittany Inge (BET's "Boomerang") and Christina Sajous (Broadway's Spongebob Squarepants).

Home was originally produced by the Negro Ensemble Company at St. Marks Playhouse in 1979, and that production transferred to Broadway where Williams received a Tony nomination for Best Play.

The play series is free of charge. All suggested donations will directly support Black Theatre United.

The second year of The Refocus Project will feature Latinx playwrights.

The Refocus Project will also feature a robust selection of materials, available to industry professionals and the public, including an online resource library, community and education events, and a "Literary Ancestry" essay series curated by Dave Harris (Roundabout's Tow Foundation Playwright-in-Residence) currently available online.

Audiences can access The Refocus Project here.


RACHEL by Angelina Weld Grimké (1916)

Directed by RTC Resident Director Miranda Haymon.

May 4, 2021

Living in a northern city at the turn of the 20th century, Rachel Loving is true to her name, exuding warmth and kindness while doting adoringly on any child she meets. But when her mother reveals a brutal story from the family's past, Rachel is shaken to her core and is forced to confront what it really means to bring a Black child into this world.

Originally produced by the NAACP's Drama Committee in Washington D.C., Rachel is believed to be the first play by a Black woman professionally produced in the United States.

I GOTTA HOME by Shirley Graham Du Bois (1939)

Directed by Steve H. Broadnax III.
May 7, 2021

Reverend Cobb has a large, boisterous family and the dwindling bank account to match. So when the family learns that his long-lost sister is quite possibly the heir to a celebrity fortune, excitement and intrigue brew. But once the enigmatic Aunt Mattie blasts into town, the Cobb family and parsonage discover that things aren't quite what they seem!

I Gotta Home had an early production by the Gilpin Players at Western Reserve University. In an article on the play, The Cleveland Plain Dealer referred to Graham Du Bois as "One of Yale's most promising playwrighting students."

SPUNK by Zora Neale Hurston (1935)

Directed by Lili-Anne Brown.
May 14, 2021

From the first day that Spunk, a charismatic, guitar-playing wanderer, sets foot in his new home, his bravado and musical talents make him the talk of this rural Florida town. Spunk immediately catches the eye of the lovely, young, and married Evalina Bishop, and their love affair sets off a chain of extraordinary events that none of their gossip-loving neighbors will ever forget.

This play is based on Hurston's short story Spunk which was published by Opportunity Magazine in June 1925. Ten years later, Hurston wrote this theatrical adaptation, which was never published and was considered to be lost for many years until the text was located in 1997.

Note: This is not the 1989 George C. Wolfe play of the same name, based on three Hurston stories.

WINE IN THE WILDERNESS by Alice Childress (1969)

Directed by Dominique Rider.

May 21, 2021

Struggling artist Bill Jameson is working on his masterpiece, a triptych representing the different aspects of Black womanhood. He has completed his first panel illustrating innocent girlhood and his central panel depicting a regal African queen. As he embarks on the final panel-the unappealing, lost, down-on-her luck woman-in walks Tommy Marie, who looks like the perfect model. But once he gets to know Tommy further, Bill starts to wonder: is there more to the feminine ideal than meets the eye?

The first ever performance of Wine in the Wilderness was televised on WGBH-TV in Boston, Massachusetts as part of the series "On Being Black." Some networks refused to air the performance across the country, considering it to be too controversial for their viewers due to its depictions of racial issues.

The play selection committee for The Refocus Project's first year includes Jill Rafson, Associate Artistic Director; Kenny Leon, Senior Resident Director; Anna Morton, Literary Manager; Miranda Haymon, Resident Director; Dave Harris, Tow Playwright-in-Residence; Nicole Tingir, Senior Producer, Artistic Development, with help from artist recommendations and the Roundabout volunteer script readers.

Photo credit: Lelund Durond Thompson