Brandi Davis, senior advertising major, and Michael May rehearse for the upcoming play at Oscar Ritchie Hall titled “Home.” The play will show Friday, Saturday and Sunday of this week and next week.
Credit: Steve Schirra
For the next two weekends, the African Community Theater will present “Home,” a chronicle of the life of a young black farmer who is torn from his land because he believes “thou shall not kill.”
Written by Samm-Art Williams and nominated for best play in the 1980 Tony Awards, “Home” tells the story of Cephus Miles who loses his love, and nearly his life, to the big city.
Michael May of Cleveland, Brandi Davis of Warren and Adrienne Broussard of New Orleans are starring as the only three actors in the performance.
“This show focuses on values, things like family, religious and spiritual values,” said Fran Dorsey, director of the African Community Theatre and an associate professor in the Department of Pan-African Studies. “It deals with conflict that a young man has with these values and how he was raised and what he is being forced to do, which is go to the Vietnam War.”
Miles, whose parents have been dead for years, learns the value of hard work from his uncle and grandfather while growing up on a farm.
After refusing to go to Vietnam and kill, Miles is imprisoned and taken to the city.
Anyone who is a product of the Vietnam era will be able to relate to that aspect of this play, Dorsey said.
“At that time, here you have a young man fighting for his country, or for freedom and democracy for others,” he said. “Yet, he and I both lived in a community where we were not allowed to go certain places because of our race. So here you have (Miles) refusing to go to war because of his beliefs, and a nation (whose) law is to then imprison him. It doesn’t make sense, and he loses hope.”
With the big city comes big trouble for Miles as he is exposed to drugs, poverty, prostitution and alcoholism.
“It’s really a fish-out-of-water story,” said May, a former Kent State student who plays the part of Miles. “He is not cut out for the fast life. He truly is a country boy at heart, and when he goes to the city he is not able to resist any of the temptation.”
The characters that affect Miles’ life are played by Davis and Broussard, as woman 1 and woman 2.
“She and I play everything from his girlfriend, to his Sunday school teacher, to drug dealers,” said Davis, a senior advertising major. “Through all of my characters, there will be something that everyone in the audience has seen at some point in their past.”
This split-second transition from one character to the next is what Davis said she found most challenging about the play.
The way Miles is lured in by these different characters and vices is something that students will be able to relate to, May said.
“This character is very universal,” May said. “A lot of time people in college aren’t sure what they want to do as a career and a lifestyle. Not knowing which way to turn, they get caught up in temptations and a barrage of advice.”
In one of the lowest moments of Miles’ life, his grandfather and uncle die and the family farm is taken away for nonpayment of taxes.
“In the midst of all these trials and tribulations in the city, his aunt sends him a letter stating that someone has purchased the farm land and decided to give it to him,” Dorsey said. “He finally decides to return back to the land.”
It’s like when you’re writing a paper, May said when talking about the inspiration for his character that he found in his own life experiences. Sometimes you make so many mistakes that it’s better to just ball up that paper and start over.
“You have to forget about what happened or whose fault it was and just have a new beginning, and that is what (Miles) learns in this play,” May said. “A lot of times there is shame in messing up, and people need to find a way to get over that and not be too proud to come back home.”
Dorsey said he hopes the audience learns that when you lose hope it loses you.
Davis agreed, saying the moral of this play is just because bad things happen to you, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Believe in yourself and don’t lose hope. That’s what faith and “Home” are all about.
Contact performing arts correspondent Erica Crist at [email protected]
The African Community Theater presents “Home”
ƒ-S Nov. 11 to 13 and Nov. 18 to 20. 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. on Sundays
ƒ-S African Community Theater in Oscar Ritchie Hall
ƒ-S Cost: $7 for students and seniors, $10 general admission