Interviews with Actors Johnnie Hobbs, Jr. and Cathy Simpson
by Samira Ford, Staff Member
Interview About HOME with Johnnie Hobbs, Jr.
Can I have your name and what you do?
Johnnie Hobbs, Jr. I’m a professional actor–I was an educator. I taught at the University of the Arts as well as Freedom Theatre for some years and just retired after thirty years at the University. I primarily consider myself to be a full, always-looking-for-work, actor.
Will you give a brief description of Home and your character?
Cephus–he’s a is a dreamer, he’s an adventurer. He has an adventurous mind, and he is looking for something that he thinks isn’t around him. He’s looking for something beyond himself. I think a lot of us look beyond what is there, what we are in, to look and see other things. So, he seeks beyond himself because he’s an adventurer, he’s a dreamer, he wants to do things. He makes a trip to those things physically, emotionally, spiritually. He makes a trip there and makes a trip back where he came from–which is home. I think that’s what Samm-Art Williams is talking about–the trips and journeys that we take emotionally and physically and spiritually. And, you know, it’s important to go home, if you have a home or if you find something that feels like home. I think that’s what this play is about. It’s a beautifully, theatrically written play that describes the journey, describes looking for something and ultimately finding it closer than you would think. It’s a beautiful piece.
Why is this story important to tell?
Well, I think that as artists we are charged with the responsibility of constantly telling stories that enrich us, that enlighten us, [and] inspire us to think, to do, to be active in our communities. Artists, that’s our responsibility. So a play like Home, which is a classic…sort of typifies that. As always, our duty is to tell these stories and enlighten the public or inform the community: the world community, the local community. We have a responsibility always to be vigilant and to understand the significance of reaching beyond ourselves.
What is home to you?
It just reminds me of a lot of things in my life in terms of even going back to the South. My family’s from the South. Just going back and feeling connected to the land is very important and significant to me.
Why should we be excited about Home?
We should be excited about it because the reading of Home and Project1Voice is very important for the world community. To understand the importance of theater, particularly in this case African American theater, because often these theaters have difficulty with support. Financial support, moral support, building audiences, and bringing these important classics once a year is an important thing. It reminds us and hopefully raises consciousness to support these kinds of things across the country. So Project1Voice is a wonderful opportunity to do that and a wonderful thing that has been developed that will consistently, hopefully, do that.
Any closing comments or remarks?
I mean, I hope it’s well attended. It’s a joy working with the people that I’m working with. I’ve always admired Kimmika and her directing, and her writing abilities, and her scholarly approach to history. I’ve always admired and appreciated her work. So it’s a joy to be working with her and the cast, and of course it’s a joy to be working with the Freedom Theatre. It’s something that I will always treasure because it means so much to me. It’s a strong, emotional commitment there more than anything. And, also, Samm-Art Williams was good friends with [founders] John Allen and Bob Leslie. I met him a number of times myself. He’s come down to the theater, and he was good friends, good brothers with Bob and John. That’s also important: to celebrate this playwright who’s done some beautiful things in his career and continues to do them. So, for people to witness and hear that, I think that’s important.