In 1944, on a Louisianan army base, two shots ring out. A Black sergeant is murdered and a series of interrogations trigger a gripping barrage of questions about service, sacrifice and identity in America.
Such is the tale of playwright Charles Fuller’s “A Soldier’s Play,” coming to the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Forrest Theatre, Jan. 24-Feb. 5.
The 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning thriller rocketed back into the spotlight thanks to the 2020 Tony Award-winning Best Revival for Roundabout Theatre Company.
Broadway, TV and film star Eugene Lee, who originated the role of Cpl. Bernard Cobb in the original 1981 off-Broadway version of the play, returns in this production as the ill-fated Sgt. Vernon C. Waters.
According to Lee, the play explores the complicated feelings of anger and resentment that some Black soldiers felt toward one another.
“More than 40 years later, we’re back,” says Lee, “and the story is from a time period that I can relate to. I’m old enough to understand the plight of African Americans during those years.”
In this current production, Lee, as Sgt. Waters, is murdered almost immediately in the first act of the play, but appears throughout the story in flashbacks. Now in a new role, Lee insists the play has never lost its appeal for him or the audience.
Born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Lee says he “got out of there as quickly as possible” and moved to Texas in his mother’s arms.
“My original career choice was to become an attorney. At one point I even thought about becoming the president until John F. Kennedy was shot. Then I quickly changed my mind,” he laughed.
Lee’s mind shortly changed to acting, and he got a taste of it when, as a young boy, he performed stints in church. Later, as a freshman in a newly-integrated high school, he was recruited by the theater teacher to join her acting class.
After high school, Lee attended Southwest Texas State (now Texas State University) where he is currently the Artist-in-Residence. Starting a collegiate theatre group with his roommate called the Ebony Players, the group did a performance of “A Raisin the Sun” on campus, and later for then President Lyndon B. Johnson at the White House.
“After my college graduation, I started teaching, but spent my summers in Los Angeles hoping to start an acting career, but not much happened until Ron Howard cast me in my first big movie role in ‘Cotton Candy.’ After that, I packed up my belongings and moved to L.A.”
Years later, Lee has gone on to appear many times on cameras for television, films and series. In fact, he’s made so many appearances that he insists he’s lost count. Additionally, he is considered a “Wilsonian Warrior” for his many appearances in the works of August Wilson.
Today, Lee is as busy as ever, but claims with a hearty laugh, “Not sure exactly what’s next, but I will work for anyone who will write me a check!”
For ticket information call 215-893-1999.
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