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Casper stages ‘Home’ for Fall theatrical production

This fall Anthony Casper, assistant professor of theater, is leading JCSU thespians in a production of “Home,” Nov. 1-4, 2018. But outside of the Arts Factory’s Black Box theatre, he can be seen on commercials airing on local cable networks, in billboard and Internet ads, and the 2017 film “An Act of Terror” starring Denzel Washington’s daughter, Olivia Washington.

Casper shares knowledge from his experience as a working actor and director with Golden Bulls, pushing them to stretch their talent and craft every day. He even brings in professional actors to perform with and mentor students.

“It’s magical seeing students interact with professional actors, because they soar,” Casper said. “Theater is so important at any educational institution; it can change students’ lives. It makes them more aware of themselves and each other. That’s the goal of theater—to tap into our own humanness. They really get that and blossom and shine.” 

“Home,” by Samm-art Williams, was originally performed by the Negro Ensemble in 1977 in New York City and focuses on Cephas Miles, an orphan who inherited a farm. He loves the land but loses it and moves to the big city, before returning home to North Carolina and a mysterious benefactor.

“It’s a very lyrical, poetic play. I’ve been wanting to do it since I got here,” Casper said. “I want them to fail in a good way and learn and grow from it, and I finally have the actors.”

“Home” calls for two female leads and a male lead, portrayed by Tyson Hamilton, a Charlotte-based actor. Los Angeles native Kaelynn Cotton ’21 is one of the female leads, in only her second production at JCSU. She landed her first big role in Spring 2018, when she played Ophelia in “When Shakespeare’s Ladies Meet.” She’s excited to bring “Home” to life.

“The role is loaded with dialogue and poetry, which is the cherry on top for me,” Cotton said. “I’ve taken theater classes back home with other instructors who are professional actors as well. But working with Professor Casper has been such an adventure, to experience his passion and love for theatre. He has definitely built up my skills as a theatre major.”

“I love my character,” said Zainab Kabia ’20, the other lead. “I feel as though her storyline is parallel to a situation that occurred in my life and we have some of the same characteristics. It makes me question my actions and sympathize along with others.”

Kabia has been performing onstage since the age of 5 and attended a performing arts high school in Maryland. She’s grateful to be working with Casper on her first JCSU performance.

“Here is someone who has the experience and is currently an active participant that is willing to prepare you and help structure your foundation for what you desire to do for the rest of your life,” she said. “Most of us college students look for that. He provides the kind of push that I need in accomplishing my goals here at JCSU and outside of school.”

Casper hails from Idaho Falls, Idaho and has been involved in theater since he was eight years old. He came to JCSU six years ago with an impressive resume: Actor’s Theater of Charlotte, CAST Theater, Davidson Community Players, Central Piedmont Community College and Theater Charlotte. In addition to commercial work, he continues to direct productions, does voice-over work, and is the spokesperson for Comporium Internet in South Carolina. He teaches Shakespearean literature at JCSU as well.

“Shakespeare’s my guy, so whenever I get the chance to read him I do,” Casper said. ”I make it more of an analysis of the scripts. I want the students to see it more from a performance angle, because plays are meant to be seen on their feet. We do a lot of character breakdowns: Why is the character saying or doing this? Students start speaking it and realize it’s not as difficult as they thought it would be.”

His favorite Johnson C Smith University theater experience is always the next show—“The memories are what make it amazing.”

 

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