A Homecoming: The First Rehearsal of A.C.T.'s Father Comes Home from the Wars

By Taylor Steinbeck

When the cast and creative team of Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) flew in to San Francisco from Yale Repertory Theatre last week, their meet and greet at A.C.T. was more like a reunion than a first rehearsal. In a case of life imitating art, A.C.T. and Yale Rep’s co-production of Suzan-Lori Parks's Father Comes Home—beginning performances tomorrow at The Geary Theater—is a homecoming story not just for the characters in the play, but also for the artists involved.

(From L to R) Julian Elijah Martinez, Michael J. Asberry, James Udom, Kadeem Ali Harris, Liz Diamond, Carey Perloff, Britney Frazier, Martin Luther McCoy, Eboni Flowers, and Gregory Wallace at the first San Francisco rehearsal of A.C.T. and Yale Repertory Theatre's 2018 production of Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3). Photo by Taylor Steinbeck.
Actors Steven Anthony Jones (The Oldest Old Man) and Gregory Wallace (Odyssey Dog), who were both a part of A.C.T.’s core acting company for several years, were reunited with their old stomping ground. For director Liz Diamond, this production has been an opportunity to collaborate with her longtime friend A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff and to return to Suzan-Lori Parks’s work. “I spent many of my formative years as a theater artist working with Suzan-Lori Parks,” said Diamond at the first rehearsal, “To come back to her work after a hiatus of nearly 20 years to work on this masterpiece of hers is a singular joy.”

The idea for A.C.T. and Yale Rep to team up arose when Perloff was guest lecturing Diamond's class at Yale School of Drama. One of Diamond’s directing students asked Perloff if there were any productions she wished she could produce at A.C.T. “I said, ‘I desperately want to do Suzan-Lori’s Father Comes Home from the Wars, but I can’t figure out how to make it work—it’s big and expensive,” Perloff recalled. Also in the room was Yale Repertory Theatre Artistic Director James Bundy. Just as Perloff mentioned the play’s name, Diamond shot a look at Bundy. “I had pitched that show six ways to sundown at Yale Rep and it was an extraordinary coincidence that James happened to wander into the room at that moment,” said Diamond. “When Carey made this declaration, I said ‘I want to do it—we’ll produce it together!’ And then it went from never to when can we start?” 

Among all the familiar names are two fresh faces—James Udom, an actor graduating from Yale School of Drama's M.F.A. Program, is playing the lead role of Hero, an enslaved man who is forced to choose between his freedom and his family. Similarly, Kadeem Ali Harris, a third-year actor in A.C.T.'s M.F.A. Program, is understudying Udom's role as well as many others. Both A.C.T. and Yale Rep work closely with their graduate acting programs, a point Diamond was keen to make. “Part of this journey is about supporting the next generation of American theater-makers," said Diamond. “It’s brilliant to be bringing these two great American theaters together.”  

Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) begins at A.C.T.’s Geary Theater April 25. Click here to purchase tickets. Want to learn more about A.C.T.’s production of Father Comes Home? Order a copy of Words on Plays, A.C.T.'s in-depth performance guide series.

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