I received an email advertising Ensemble Theater’s reading of Home by Samm Art-Williams. The reading was a national reading of 30 institutions paying homage to African-American Theater. Typically, I did not have a lot of time to research the show, but two things stood out, the actors and direction.
I have a talent for spotting stardom, and I think my average is nearing perfect. My scout eye has been admiring Crystal Dickinson and Brandon Dirden (Houston’s own). I find it more interesting that they are happily married. The fact this reading would have them working together piqued my interest more. They both are stars in my eyes (even though I am late to the party).
My introduction to them began when I saw a show (somewhere) and read about Brandon in the Playbill. I believe he was being nominated for a Tony at the time. I kept scratching my head why I did not know him because he is my Morehouse brother. We have a lot of mutual friends but I do not remember him in school. Maybe I was in too many chemistry labs or stuck in the library pretending to study.
Crystal happens to be a friend of a friend…and when I saw our friend talking about her show on Broadway, I made a point to see the show (You Can’t Take It With You) when I was in NYC. The show was amazing. Though I was not familiar with all the actors (except James Earl Jones), I watched Crystal’s performance with a hawk’s eye. I was impressed. Yet, after the show, it rained like I was in a King Kong movie while in Times Square. I had to get out of there as fast as I could.
Yesterday, the storm warnings began for flash floods (a little irony), and I kept debating if I should see the show. I made the decision about 1 hour before the show because the rain had not begun. I did not have a ticket. Was working up until that point and had no clue what I would wear. I somehow pulled it together only arriving 10 minutes late.
I can not recall the last time I attended a reading. I am thinking at least 10 years ago when I frequented Hartford Stage. Readings can quickly lose your focus as it is bare – no costumes, props, etc. to add color to the performance. The show opened and I quickly realized this was going to be wonderful. The characters were based in Crossroads, NC and of course they would open in a gospel hymn (that was in key, I may add).
I thoroughly enjoyed Home. Though I was there to support Brandon and Crystal, I was pleasantly surprised that Samantha West was also talented. Though my thespian days are very foggy in my memory, I have a gift for analyzing theatrical productions. My six years of studying the art never left me. The content of the play was also well written, but unless you have actors bringing it to life properly, you lose much of the steam. This reading of Home was the best reading I have ever seen. It was one of the top shows I have seen at Ensemble. Though I took a risk of nearly floating in a flash flood, it was worth every bit.