Jacob Ming-Trent is a household name across Broadway stages, regional theaters and even in London! State side you might have seen him compete to win a new truck in Hands on a Hardbody or perhaps you recognize him from the fairytale world of Shrek the Musical. This month Jacob can be found on stage in the new play by Pulitzer Prize & Tony Award winner Suzan-Lori Parks, Father Comes Home From the Wars (Part 1, 2 & 3) at The Public Theater. Check out the Q&A below to find out more about the show, Jacob’s experience in the play, working with Suzan-Lori Parks and more!
Arts In Color: Tell us a bit about the show and more specifically about your character. What have you found to be most challenging/rewarding?
Jacob Ming-Trent: I play the dog! He may be the most-free character in the play. It’s always challenging playing an animal. It’s theatrical but you want it to be truthful. A dog relates to people differently but we have to tell his story in a way that audiences will understand. It’s a lot of fun and people seem to really enjoy it. The truth is the dog is a rock star! He loves himself almost as much as he loves his master Hero.
AIC: You’ve been with the production since the Public Lab run last season. How did you first get involved? What has the evolution of the show been like?
JMT: They called me and asked me if I was willing to play an animal. And I said hell yes, sounds like a good time and a challenge.
AIC: What is it like working with the incredible playwright Suzan-Lori Parks?
JMT: It really was a dream come true. That’s why I cleared the schedule to work with her. I grew up with her plays, it’s amazing to be in the room with her. She is a smart, brave, insightful story-teller.
AIC: Could you tell us about the rehearsal process with the cast and your experience working with Director Jo Bonney?
JMT: This is one of the funniest casts I have ever been around. We have a great time working together, and we have developed a great deal of trust. I love what I do. But it’s a real gift to do it with people who you love.
AIC: Father Comes Home From the Wars is set during the Civil War, but there are contemporary and period fusion elements such as music and dialogue. How was it for you to work with this unique dynamic?
JMT: The story of the slave in America has been told so many times. And I’ve watched and read so many narratives describing the slave’s experience. Adding the contemporary elements reminds me that some of the issues blacks were dealing with back then, we have some of the same challenges and questions today. Hopefully it helps the audience make that connection.
AIC: What is your pre-show routine?
JMT: Telling jokes. Making people laugh in the green room. I like to warm up the voice and the body. But for a clown it’s also good to warm up your timing.
AIC: Give us 3 reasons people should come see the show, especially people of color.
JMT: I have one reason. It remind us that we still have work to do. And while working on these issues in our community we can laugh, cry, and get angry. This play reminds us that we all have a choice.
AIC: Since Arts in Color is about people of color in theater we have to ask-What does it mean to you (if anything at all) to be an artist of color?
JMT: It means I have a chance to make and support change. Just by showing up and participating I’ve made a statement: that were not going anywhere and that we have a right and a responsibility to contribute.
AIC: Is there a ‘non traditional/color blind cast’ role out there that you’d love the chance to play?
JMT: I would love to do any and all of Chekhov’s plays. Also Eugene O’Neill.
AIC: What can we expect to see next from you?
JMT: I just got an offer to do a Marx Brothers musical called Animal Crackers. Also I shot a movie with Julie Taymor that will be premiering very soon. But you will see things change very quickly in this business.
Curious to catch Jacob as a dog on stage in Father Comes Home From the Wars (Part 1, 2 & 3)? Ready for the next great work by Suzan-Lori Parks? Visit the Public Theater website for more info. What do you think of Civil War/ Slavery era plays? Too many or not enough? Leave a comment below and subscribe via the toolbar to your right to hear more from Arts in Color!