Phylicia Rashad-Helmed FENCES to Open 11/27 at Long Wharf Theatre
The show will take place November 27 through December 22, 2013 on The Claire Tow Stage in the C. Newton Schenck III Theatre. Tickets are $40-$75. The press opening takes place Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 pm.
Troy Maxson found glory in the Negro Leagues battling fastballs on the outside corner, the pitches that meant life or death for a baseball player. But it's the 1950s, and his opportunity to play in the major leagues has passed. Now he's a garbage man struggling to provide for his family, trying to contain his bitterness as he seeks solace from spinning tales on his front porch. Because of his race, Troy is left in a world where life's daily battles take on the scope of epic conflict. This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic by August Wilson, part of his renowned Century Cycle, introduces one of the truly unforgettable characters of the American stage to Long Wharf Theatre audiences.
"It is a nostalgia piece looking at a moment when African Americans were breaking into sports. The play is, in some ways, about frustrated ambitions, talented black athletes who realized that it is too late for them. Troy Maxton realized what he could have been instead of what he was. I think audiences will be extremely moved by his story," said Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein.
"It is a play about life," Rashad said. "August Wilson took an original person, an everyman, and elevated that person in theatrical importance."
Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel Jr. in 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the mid-1960s, Kittel, who took his mother's maiden name ofWilson as a way to honor her, decided to become a writer. Soaking up the atmosphere from time spent working, reading in the Carnegie Library, listening to the blues, and writing in bars and cafes, Wilson became one of the leading chroniclers of the African-American experiencE. Wilsonhas a particular connection to New Haven - he found an artistic home at Yale Repertory Theatre in the 1980s, which premiered his Century Cycle, a group of play chronicling the African-American experience in the 20th century.
"I don't write particularly to effect social change," Wilson told the Paris Review. "I believe writing can do that, but that's not why I write. I work as an artist. All art is political in the sense that it serves someone's politics. Here in America whites have a particular view of blacks. I think my plays offer them a different way to look at black Americans. For instance, in Fences they see a garbage man, a person they don't really look at, although they see a garbage man every day. By looking at Troy's life, white people find out that the content of this black garbage man's life is affected by the same things-love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty. Recognizing that these things are as much part of his life as theirs can affect how they think about and deal with black people in their lives."
His plays Fences and The Piano Lesson both won Pulitzer Prizes. According to the New York Times, Wilson's plays logged over 1,800 performances on Broadway, and there were over 2,000 professional and amateur productions staged of his work. He died in 2005. "In bringing to the popular American stage the gritty specifics of the lives of his poor, trouble-plagued and sometimes powerfully embittered black characters, Mr. Wilson also described universal truths about the struggle for dignity, love, security and happiness in the face of often overwhelming obstacles, " wrote Charles Isherwood in the New York Times in 2005.
Before her iconic role as Claire Huxtable in the 1980s hit sitcom "The Cosby Show," Rashad's background and training came in the theatre. Recently, in addition to continuing to perform on stage and screen, Rashad has developed a critically acclaimed directing career. "In acting, attention is paid to the detail of realize a character and understanding a person. In directing, attention is paid to every detail of the production. The director's job is visualizing, developing a vision, and creating energies to align that vision. You're working with the playwright, the stage crew, all the people you don't see who make that play work," Rashad told Afrobella magazine.