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For actress Rachel Blakes, performing on her first solo show since the start of the pandemic felt like a return to dating.

Along with two other actors, Blakes plays several roles in the play “Home” at the historically established Black Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre. to 19 June.

“It was like coming home,” Blakes said. “I haven’t been in this favorite place for such a long time, and then for the audience to come and complete our picture – it was so touching and the most special feeling.”

“Home” tells the story of a recently orphaned young man named Cephus Miles who enjoys working on the family farm. After a series of misfortunes, he leaves his rural life to explore the city.

According to Artistic Director Tim Rose, the performance embodies the style of American mobile tent theater that focuses on a minimalist approach rather than costumes, props and sets.

“We will focus on lyrical writing, poetic storytelling, humor, heartbreak, redemption and amazing performances,” Rose told Spotlight on Lake in May.

Blakes said they took it upon themselves to portray 11 characters, including a teenager, a drug dealer and an elderly aunt, with the support of her director and co-stars.

Blake’s most famous character is the teenage girl Patti Mae. They said they admire how down-to-earth the character is compared to the stereotypical portrayal of teenage girls.

“I admire the idea that you can go and let life happen to you and you can still hold on to the essence of who you are,” Blakes said. “I admire that she had it as a child, because it’s not something that many teenagers have.”

The play’s themes are one of the reasons actor Levon Johnson called the play a “treasure” for the black writing community.

He said that playing Cephus allowed him to better understand playwright Samm-Art Williams in the historical context of black theater.

“It’s like reading or diving into your great-uncle’s diary to understand how he sees the world in his time and day, and then find out how much the world has grown or how much it has stayed the same,” Johnson said.

The depiction of Cef also prompted Johnson to introspect, during which he says he assessed his own choices and realized that he was not alone when he was in doubt.

According to Johnson, standing in the place of Cephus, he also realized the importance of self-knowledge.

“In today’s time, there will be many things around us that will affect our emotions – changes, other people’s choices, restrictions, restrictions, freedoms – all this should play a secondary role before we know who we are.” Johnson said. “It allows us, after seeing this play, to choose our battles wisely and know when we need to save our bullets and when we need to let them fly.”

Blakes said that more black stories should be told through a lens of joy that offers more nuance and discovery, rather than focusing on black trauma as a selling point.

The happy ending of Cephus is one such example for Blakes.

“It’s very hard to wake up black in America every day, so I think we deserve moments that remind us of the joys of being black,” Blakes said. “This is the truth about who we are, the truth about our culture – the truth about our community, joyful, loving, compassionate.”

Johnson said that he thought those feelings had spread among the cast and crew.

He said that with weekly rehearsals since January, everyone has become a family.

“We realized that it’s important for us to win together, and that’s what you do with your family,” Johnson said. “Your art and mine, flowing into each other, create a wonderful cocktail of life, memories and love. You feel at home.”

Email address: [email protected]

Twitter: @jennajwang

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