August 17, 2009

Fences Announced

Here's the skinny from the Fences press release:

The Huntington Theatre Company opens its 28th season – a season of American stories -- with August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Fences, the sixth chapter of his groundbreaking ten-play cycle about the 20th century African-American experience. Kenny Leon (Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean, A Raisin in the Sun), acclaimed director and Wilson’s final collaborator before his death, returns to the Huntington to helm the production, which stars John Beasley (Two Trains Running, Jitney, “Everwood”).

“The Huntington provided August with an artistic home throughout his career,” says Artistic Director Peter DuBois. “Fences is one of only two plays from his magnificent opus that we have not yet produced. This fall we take one step closer to completing his cycle with one of his greatest. Kenny has been such an important part of the Huntington’s special relationship with August and his work. I am thrilled to welcome him back.”

Playwright August Wilson was the winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, a Tony Award, an Olivier Award, and eight Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for the ten chapters of his groundbreaking decade-by-decade exploration of the heritage and experience of African-Americans in the 20th century. The Huntington played an integral part in Wilson’s play development process, producing eight of his ten works before transferring them to New York: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone-1910s (1986), The Piano Lesson-1930s (1987), Two Trains Running-1960s (1990), Seven Guitars-1940s (1995), Jitney-1970s (1998), King Hedley II-1980s (2000), Gem of the Ocean-1900s (2004), and Radio Golf-1990s (2006). Wilson died in 2005, just after completing Radio Golf, his final chapter.

Director Kenny Leon was Wilson’s final collaborator and has directed all ten of Wilson’s plays. His relationship with the Huntington began in 1993 when he helmed From the Mississippi Delta. Other productions for the Huntington include A Raisin in the Sun with Esther Rolle (1995) and Blues for an Alabama Sky (1997) with Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad. For the Huntington and then on Broadway, he directed Gem of the Ocean with Rashad (2004) and Radio Golf (2006). In 2008, he served as Artistic Director of August Wilson’s 20th Century at The Kennedy Center, a six-week festival staging readings of the works with sets, costumes, and lighting. Leon is the founding artistic director of True Colors Theatre Company in Atlanta and served as artistic director and associate artistic director of Alliance Theatre. He directed the 2004 Tony Award-winning Broadway revival and the Emmy Award-nominated television film of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun starring Sean Combs, Rashad, and Audra McDonald.

Fences was a seminal work in Leon’s development as a theatre artist. “I saw Fence
s, and it was the first time I felt like my grandmother’s and mother’s rhythms were onstage. It was so powerful – I’d never heard them before.” Leon is looking forward to revisiting the play. “This will be my fourth time, and it can be hard to direct a play more than once because after a while you feel you’ve exhausted it, but this hasn’t been the case with Fences. It feels like a new play every time. I’m always making new discoveries.”

Leon recalls the role the Huntington played in Wilson’s career and in their relationship. “I dearly miss August,” Leon recalls. “The last time he was healthy was the time we spent in Boston working on Gem of the Ocean. So when I think of August, I think of us walking on Huntington Avenue – starting out for a five minute conversation and talking for two hours.”

Fences is the story of Troy Maxson, a former Negro Leagues star who peaked too soon for baseball’s integration and instead hit the ceiling of racial prejudice. Working as a garbage collector in 1957 Pittsburgh, Troy is resentful of a world that denied him the opportunities for the national success he feels he deserves. Troy’s son Cory, an emerging football star, sees the world through very different eyes than his father, but paralyzed by his bitterness, Troy refuses to support his son’s ambitions. Meanwhile, Troy’s wife Rose yearns for a true outlet for her love,
his son Lyons strives for his father’s love and respect, and his brother Gabriel, a mentally-disabled war veteran, offers Troy a different perspective of the world.

The Huntington’s season of American stories is the first in the Company’s 28-year history comprised entirely of plays by American writers. The plays of the season relate to one another through stories of opportunities lost and found, of intergenerational struggles and successes, and of the most intimate and meaningful relationships. Drawn from some of the best writing the country has to offer, the Huntington will engage its audience in a season-long conversation about issues of race, class, values, and a shared American experience. The African-American experience is explored throughout the season, from the Civil War (A Civil War Christmas), to the 1950s (Fences), to today (Stick Fly).

“This season at the Huntington, we are taking on a range of compelling American writing,” says DuBois. “Each production offers us a singular point of view about the American experience, and I'm very excited by the diverse perspectives these artists bring.”

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Fences by August Wilson, directed by Kenny Leon, at the Huntington Theatre Company's mainstage - Boston University Theatre, 264 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115. Buy tickets online or call our box office at 617 266-0800. Box Office locations and hours click here.

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