BWW Interview: Playwright Samuel Harps Discusses The Story Behind His Latest Play CLOVER
Samuel Harps of Pomona, New York is a Baby Boomer, raised as an Army Brat, who lived in Germany for years, before settling in Norfolk, Virginia as a teen. His interest in writing began through journal writing in Junior High School and grew as he went on to study Journalism in College. Sam's current project, "Clover" is set to be performed with Shades Repertory Theater at The Garnerville Arts Center. Based on a true story, and directed by Mel Hancock, "Clover" takes place in North Carolina in 1958 and tells the story of a 19 year old African-American Woman who was incarcerated while 6 months pregnant. When a prison riot erupts, trapping her inside, four brave inmates are forced to deliver the child. Clover is a two-act drama that explores the first legal, moral and societal implications when a child is born to a mother who is in prison.
How did you get your start as a playwright?
I entered my first play to New Dramatist in NYC and received an internship in the late 80's, which gave me a unique opportunity to work under noted playwrights August Wilson, Charles Gordone. New Dramatists was on West 44th, just 2 doors from The Actors Studio, which gave interns the chance to have our work performed in readings by some of the greatest talents of our generation. I was later accepted into the Negro Ensemble Company's Playwright's Program, where I met the (now) Emmy Award Winning actor Ron Cephas Jones. The following year Ron and I teamed up with the Poet Miguel Algarin at the Nuyorican Poet's Cafe and Rome Neal, it's current artistic director, who went on to direct my play Don't Explain, based on the tragic death of trumpeter Lee Morgan in a Lower East Side Nightclub called Slugs in 1972. It was later revealed that the original location of the club was next door to where the Poet's Cafe is currently located. With Ron Cephas Jones' brilliant portrayal of Lee and Rome's skillful staging, the play won several AUDELCO Awards, including Best Actor, Director, and Playwright.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind "Clover?"
My inspiration to write Clover came from an article I read while working for The Bergen Record, about the first African-American Woman to give birth during a riot at a North Carolina prison in 1958. The short article had very little details, but the situation fascinated me, leading me to the ultimate "what if" question, which lead to the play being written.
This is not the first time "Clover" has been done onstage. Can you tell us about previous productions of "Clover?"
Clover was first staged in 1995 by Bronze production (Benja Kay and Adele Branch) at American Theater for Actors and directed by Obie Award Winning Actor Nathan George. It was again produced in 1997 at The Billie Holiday Theater, directed by Arnold Beauchamp.
Why do you think it is important for this play to be back onstage in 2019?
The importance of Clover in today's world is simple. There are currently over 200, 000 female prisoners now incarcerated in U.S. prisons (a 700% increase since 1980). A majority of these inmates are Women of Color. 60% of these women have children under the age of 18.
CLOVER is co-sponsored by the Rockland Based Organization The Gordon Center for Black Culture & Arts (gordonbca.org).
"Clover" will be performed at Shades Repertory Theater at the Garnerville Arts Center in The Dye Works Theater at 55 West Railroad Avenue Garnerville, N.Y. The show runs September 5, 6, 7 at 8:00 PM. Doors open at 7:30 PM.