Home is one play in the current Signature season that honors the writers, plays and legacy of the Negro Ensemble Company. The season tribute is a variation of Signature's mission to embrace one playwright per season; for 2008-09, a group of NEC plays by different writers is being revived.
Under the direction of Ron OJ Parson, Home features Tracey Bonner, Kevin T. Carroll and January LaVoy. Performances play the Peter Norton Space at 555 W. 42nd Street (between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues) to Jan. 4, 2009.
Williams' critically acclaimed Home is billed as "a wonderfully theatrical tale of one man's struggle to stay true to himself amidst a rapidly changing and turbulent America. Leaving behind his family's farm in North Carolina, Cephus Miles [played by Carroll] seeks refuge and prosperity in the North. Three actors portray more than 25 characters over the course of Cephus' epic journey from adolescence to adulthood, spanning the 1950s through the Vietnam War and Civil Rights eras."
The play ran at Broadway's Cort Theatre 1980-81, and received Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations for Best Play. As a member of the Negro Ensemble Company's Acting Repertory, Samm-Art Williams performed in The First Breeze of Summer (Broadway), Eden, Nevis Mountain Dew, No-Where to Run . . . No-Where to Hide, Old Phantoms and The Brownsville Raid. His NEC-produced plays are Home (Tony nomination, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk nomination, NAACP Image Award, and the North Carolina Governor's Award) O, A Love Play, Welcome to Black River and Eyes of the American. Williams' other plays include Woman from the Town, Cork, Brass Birds Don't Sing, Friends, In My Father's House, Welcome to Black River, Home the Musical, Conversations on a Dirt Road, The Dance on Widows' Row, The Waiting Room and Revival. Williams was co-executive producer of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC) and "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" (ABC); executive producer of "Martin" (Fox) and "Good News" (UPN); and consulting producer of the Columbia Tri-Star talk show "Vibe," with host Sinbad. He has received the Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Playwriting, and the Roanoke Island Historical Association's Morrison Award.
Director Parson directed The First Breeze of Summer at Chicago's Court Theatre, where he is resident artist. He recently directed the world premiere of Palmer Park by Joanna M. Glass at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario.
Bonner, who'll play Woman Two, is making her Signature Theatre debut. Other theatre credits include The Talented Tenth for Congo Square Theatre Company; Home at Madison Repertory Theatre; Joe Turner's Come and Gone at The Goodman Theatre; How the Kanye' West Was Won and Six Degrees of Reparation at Second City in Chicago. She holds an MFA in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University.
Carroll, who'll play Cephus Miles, appeared in Broadway's Take Me Out; 45 Seconds From Broadway; Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk and Angels in America, and in Signature's Seven Guitars.
LaVoy, to play Woman One/Pattie Mae Wells, appeared in Signature's Two Trains Running and the world premiere of Christopher Durang's Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge (City Theatre) and Dael Orlandersmith's Raw Boys (Wilma Theatre), among other plays.
Tickets are now available on Signature's website at www.signaturetheatre.org, by phone at (212) 244-PLAY (7529) and in person at the box office.
Through The Signature Ticket Initiative, "which seeks to make great theatre accessible to the broadest possible audience," all regularly-priced single tickets ($65) are available for $20 during the regular runs of each production for the entire season. The Signature Ticket Initiative continues through Signature's 20th Anniversary Season (2010-2011).
Signature's 2008-09 season is an examination of a body of work from the historic Negro Ensemble Company's collective of writers, "whose contributions have helped shape America's theatrical heritage."
Ruben Santiago-Hudson serves as associate artist for the season, which will also include Charles Fuller's Zooman and the Sign and a staged reading of Douglas Turner Ward's Day of Absence.
The first production of the season, Leslie Lee's The First Breeze of Summer was extended twice by popular demand (it closed Oct. 19).
The Signature Ticket Initiative is made possible by the lead sponsorship of Time Warner Inc. Support for The Signature Ticket Initiative is provided by Margot Adams, in memory of Mason Adams.
Signature Theatre Company is run by James Houghton, founding artistic director, and Erika Mallin, executive director.