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.