"The Whipping Man" actors dig deep for character inspiration

Even with a small cast, The Whipping Man is sure to leave a big impact. A powerful story is told by three men as they take the stage and take us back to a Jewish home in Richmond, VA right after the Civil War has ended. A Confederate officer comes home from war to find his family gone and his house in ruins. Only two of his former slaves remain in the house and the three wait together for the return of their families. As they wait, they interpret their Jewish faiths during the difficult times of war and slavery, and their personal stories and secrets begin to unravel.

Carl Brooks as Simon
A lot of personal reflection was involved in preparing for these roles and the actors dug deep to find their characters within themselves. For Carl Brooks, who plays Simon, one of the former slaves, portraying the Judaism aspect of his character was the hardest. “It was difficult coming to grips that this man was raised Jewish,” said Carl. “I have to accept and apply Judaism into a slavery environment and find that within myself.”

For the other actors, Andy Prescott and Luther R. Simon, finding the darker sides of themselves and portraying such raw emotion was the most difficult part of portraying their characters. “There is a lot of dark energy here; racism is heavy,” said Luther. “You really have to get intact and portray the sides people pretend to hide about themselves.”

Luther Simon as John
It was the intensity of the story and the darkness of the characters that intrigued both Andy and Luther. “I was drawn to my character because of his menacing undertone,” said Luther. “I’ve never played a dark character; this guy is raw, edgy and mysterious, and it’s my first time playing that role.” This was also a new type of role for Andy. “I want to make [acting] a career, and I’m just starting out. I want to branch out from my usual goofy protagonist that I play and this part is very different from that.”

In order to develop their characters, the cast have been looking into history and into their own pasts. “This character is interesting; he’s an alcoholic and has a lot of baggage. I’ve been trying to think of times in my life where I can relate,” said Luther. “There is a lot of reflection as well as knowing the history; I’ve been going to the library.” Carl has been using similar antics. “Life experiences have helped me a lot and I have always been curious and interested about the Civil War,” he said.
Andrew Prescott as Caleb

For Andy, there was a more physical aspect to his role preparation. “There has been a lot of physicality and warming up. There are a lot of scenes where I am laying down but still have to project energy,” he said. “I’ve also been listening to dialect tapes in my car and finding beats and emotions that come through the play.”

Between having a smaller cast and having such new characters to play, the three actors led by Director Stephen Nachamie, have been working hard to bring all the power the story holds to the stage. “It’s an intense play,” said Andy. “You have to be ready to give it all you’ve got.”

See The Whipping Man at the Omaha Community Playhouse Oct. 17-Nov.16, Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $36 for adults and $22 for students. For groups of 12 or more, tickets for adults are $24 and tickets for students are $16. To purchase tickets or for more information, call (402) 553-0800, click here or visit the Box Office located in the southeast corner of the Omaha Community Playhouse at 6915 Cass St. Go Beyond the show with a post-show panel discussion on Sunday, Nov. 2 immediately following the performance.

Story by Madison Denkinger

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