Goodman Theatre / Owen Theatre
FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS (PARTS 1, 2 & 3)
Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks,
DIRECTED BY NIEGEL SMITH
MAY 25 – JUNE 24
Let’s Play had the esteemed pleasure to interview three talented members of Father Comes Home From The Wars written by Suzan-Lori Parks and directed by Niegel Smith at Goodman Theatre. Aimé Donna Kelly, Kamal Angelo Bolden, and Jaime Lincoln Smith are three rising stars in the theater world and they took time to share insights about this incredible play.
LP: Aimé, you play the role of Penny. Describe Penny to our readers and how you enjoyed playing this role.
ADK: I would describe Penny as a very devoted woman and wife to Hero. She is someone that I think experiences great love within challenging circumstances and a person who bravely embraces those circumstances, which we know as slavery. She is also dealing with being a woman of color who is not being taught that she is beautiful, valuable, loved or needed; but only being told that she, as a woman, is just good for one thing (sex); but then she meets Hero.
He invigorates her and brings beauty and love into her life, so she latches on to that, and that love is something that makes her strong and even makes him stronger. Penny is learning what it means to be in love through Hero’s love.
I feel honored to play the part of Penny. I think that her story is really beautiful, a story that we don’t typically witness from the narrative of a slave and how difficult it is to be in the position of being Penny.
A lot of times we don’t get to witness the heart or the beauty that those in slavery possess or the humanity they possess. I feel that Penny is a beautiful character because she can show all of these traits while being strong and brave within horrific human circumstances.
LP: Kamal, you played the role of Hero, the man that brought the essence of Penny’s beauty out. Tell us about Hero and what you felt about playing the role of Hero that was so beautiful to you?
KAB: Well, Hero is an enslaved African American male faced with the choice of following his master into the Civil War on behalf of the Confederate Army. He is forced to decide whether he wants to join his master, the guy who owns him, or make the choices his fellow community of enslaved people believes he should choose. These choices weigh heavily on him because Hero, as his name suggests, is the leader of that community.
With regards to your question about bringing the essence of beauty to Penny, well Ron OJ Parson, the esteemed and very talented African-American playwright, said something that always stuck with me. He said that every play is a love play. No matter what play it is; it’s about love.
So, what helped bring out the essence of her beauty and bring out the love between the characters of Hero and Penny happened because of the playwright. We talked about the love within and of the community and the love we (Hero and Penny) shared. Hero doesn’t have an example of parents where he learns how you love a woman.
We were split up! African slaves were split up from their families; so I think it’s exceptional that Hero could see something so strong in Penny to love.
With regards to love, I believe that once you see the light of love in somebody that shines so brightly, you don’t necessarily need an example of how to appreciate that life; you naturally appreciate it. Fortunately for us, Suzan-Lori Parks has written that incredible light of love in this play.
Like Aime said, you don’t usually see this perspective of a story told from the enslaved African. It’s not conveyed from the viewpoint of the master, not the oppressor; it’s being told from our perspective, by the people being hunted rather than the hunter.
LP: Jamie, you play the role of Homer please describe him to our readers.
JLS: Homer is another one of the slaves within the community and that through his time being enslaved, growing up together with Hero as a slave and spending a lot of time with each other, Homer is like Hero’s brother.
We have a very close relationship, however; I would consider Homer the rebel of the slaves. He’s the one that has run away before, and a piece of his limb was amputated because he ran away; however, he is always thinking about running away. Homer, as Malcolm X would say, he is like the field negro.
LP: Aimé, what do you want the audience to know about the character Penny?
ADK: Okay, I want to speak to every little African-American girl and all women. The character Penny would say to them that even though you may not have been told that you are beautiful or shown any examples that you are beautiful, that you are and that you have to know that you are for yourself. Maybe there isn’t someone teaching you that, or perhaps there isn’t an example even today of someone telling you that, but you are indeed beautiful!
LP: Kamal, what do you want people to walk away after seeing your role of Hero.
KAB: I’m sure as we are sitting on these seats that any audience that comes to see “Father Comes Home From The Wars” will go home later during that car ride or in their bed, thinking, ‘if I was in that position, back then, faced with the choices Hero had to make, during extreme consequences; what would I do?’
So I want people that come to the play to think about what Susan Lloyd Parks is asking. What is a measure of a man? More specifically, what is the measure of a Black man in America today? Based upon our history, our heritage in the oppression that continues to permeate today, how does society measure the Black man?
I think that’s the main reason people should see the play. It’s more than just the characters in the play; it’s a story within a story and a beautiful play that no one will expect.
LP: Jamie, talk to us about the rebel Homer, the slave who seems to stand against injustice and a person who just wanted to be free. How would that compare with the Homer of today?
JLS: I feel it’s a direct parallel, honestly, if you look at today; we still didn’t seem free. We’re still in chains metaphorically, and some of us are physically being changed from the injustice of being chained.
The evils of society are designed to keep us locked up. The powers over us want us to believe that they are helping us, which is the same thing that Homer and everyone on the plantation experience. Locked into what the master had for us and wanted us to do, and my character Homer wanted to break from those chains on that plantation.
Homer today would be similar to “Black Lives Matter.” He wouldn’t be for oppression or the unwarranted killing of young African-Americans by the police.
Let’s Play HIGHLY recommends Father Comes Home From The Wars at The Owen Theatre. To get tickets, go to the Goodman Theatre website.