GA Voice - - Outspoken -

Fred­die [Ash­ley, Ac­tor’s Ex­press’ artis­tic direc­tor] and I first met a decade ago when he was the lit­er­ary man­ager at the Al­liance [The­atre] and re­con­nected a few years ago when I earned a pro­duc­ing res­i­dency through the Na­tional New Play Net­work. He was also a part of the se­lec­tion panel when I earned a com­pet­i­tive di­rect­ing fel­low­ship that aimed to pro­vide de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and a di­rect­ing as­sign­ment to early ca­reer di­rec­tors for­tu­nate enough to re­ceive it. Af­ter I had earned the fel­low­ship, Fred­die ex­pressed his in­ter­est in hir­ing me to di­rect a project. When he first con­tacted me about di­rect­ing this season, he didn’t tell me the name of the show be­cause the theater was still work­ing to se­cure the rights. I had my fin­gers crossed and was over the moon to learn that it was “Fa­ther Comes Home from the Wars.”

For those un­fa­mil­iar with the play, can you de­scribe it?

Suzan-Lori Parks is one of the most bril­liant play­wrights writ­ing for the theater to­day. She takes in­spi­ra­tion from Homer’s “Odyssey” to craft a Civil War-era story in three parts about an en­slaved man who is of­fered his free­dom if he agrees to fight along­side his mas­ter for the Con­fed­er­ates. As he em­barks on this jour­ney, Ms. Parks ex­plores not only the po­lit­i­cal ram­i­fi­ca­tions of Eman­ci­pa­tion for the coun­try, but she crafts a nar­ra­tive that looks at how peo­ple grap­pled with the personal ram­i­fi­ca­tions of free­dom in a man­ner that I hope res­onates with au­di­ences as hav­ing rel­e­vance to our cur­rent cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

What themes of the show do you think are es­pe­cially top­i­cal?

Through­out Hero’s jour­ney, he is grap­pling with what his worth will be when he is free. He strug­gles to com­pre­hend how his free­dom makes him worth more if he doesn’t have a price. Although the play is set dur­ing the Civil War, au­di­ences who are keen will see the al­lu­sions to the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment, which was co­a­lesc­ing when the play was be­ing de­vel­oped. I am also struck by the fact that in the play, there is also con­ver­sa­tion about what will hap­pen af­ter Eman­ci­pa­tion. His­tor­i­cally, we know that it led to the horrific rise of Jim Crow. How­ever, I can’t help but think that in our own cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate where fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of two terms by our first black pres­i­dent, we seem to be a na­tion strug­gling again with how to progress for­ward.

How does be­ing a gay man in­flu­ence your choices as an artist?

“Fa­ther Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 and 3)” Through June 11 Ac­tor’s Ex­press 887 West Ma­ri­etta St. N.W. At­lanta, GA 30318­tor­sex­

Be­ing an openly gay man, I’ve had to learn to live my life boldly. My con­ser­va­tive church up­bring­ing and the re­lent­less bul­ly­ing of peers re­ally pulled me in­side my­self. Giv­ing my­self per­mis­sion to be an artist is what ul­ti­mately gave me a deeper un­der­stand­ing of who I am. I of­ten tell peo­ple that I’m still in the fam­ily busi­ness, it’s just that the theater has be­come my min­istry. I’m find­ing my voice in my work when it re­flects the bold man­ner in which I want to live. I’m re­ally for­tu­nate to be at a point in my ca­reer where I can choose the kind of work that re­ally res­onates with me. And as an artist who has worked re­gion­ally most re­cently, I am of­ten di­rect­ing in com­mu­ni­ties that are more con­ser­va­tive than cities like New York or Chicago. But, I en­joy the chal­lenge.

‘Fa­ther Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 and 3)’ was a Pulitzer Pride award fi­nal­ist. (Photo by Christo­pher Bar­tel­ski for Ac­tor’s Ex­press)

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