Marin Theatre Welcomes Carl Lumbly to the Cast of FENCES, Beg. 4/10
Marin Theatre Company, in association with Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, will stage August Wilson's Fences, the 1950s entry into his Century Cycle (also known as his Pittsburgh Cycle) - a decade-by-decade exploration of the black experience in 20th century America. Directed by Derrick Sanders, the Pulitzer Prize and two-time Tony Award-winning play will feature veteran film and television actor Carl Lumbly as Troy Maxson, Steven Anthony Jones, the artistic director of Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, as Jim Bono and award-winning actor, playwright and director Margo Hall as Rose, as well as Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Eddy Ray Jackson as Cory, Adrian Roberts as Gabriel, Tyee Tilghman as Lyons and two Marin City youths - Jade Sweeney, who attends Willow Creek Academy, and Makaelah Bashir, Bayside Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy - splitting the role of Raynell.
Extended by eight performances due to high demand for tickets, the production will run for 37 performances from April 10 through May 11. Opening night is Tuesday, April 15. Based in Mill Valley, MTC is a 47-year old professional nonprofit theater that is a destination for exhilarating performances, inspired new American plays and powerful theatrical experiences. Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, a 33-year-old San Francisco-based African-American theater company, has included Fences as part of its 2013-14 Passport Season subscription series.
"As we continue our exploration of August Wilson's canon through the eyes of a new generation of African-American artists," said artistic director Jasson Minadakis, "I am thrilled to welcome director Derrick Sanders to the first of two projects we will collaborate on over the next several months. Derrick was one of only a few young directors who were lucky enough to work as assistants on multiple Wilson premieres while the great playwright was still alive. Derrick formed a special bond with him and I am proud to bring his special vision of Wilson's work to the Bay Area."
In Fences, Troy Maxson, one of the greatest characters of American theater, has stepped up to the plate too many times in his life only to go down swinging. Shut out of the big leagues by prejudice, the former Negro League homerun king is now a garbage collector with little future. He tries to do right by his family, but when his youngest son Cory shows promise on the high school football team, Troy must come to terms with his past disappointments or risk tearing his family apart. "Stunning, explosive and tender" (The Seattle Times), Fences is "August Wilson at his finest" (Boston Herald). "Time has enhanced the luster of" the play and it "stands apart thanks to its distinctive lyricism and theatricality and its unforgettable central character" - Fences is "universal enough to touch a chord in every human heart." (The New York Times).
Fences premiered in 1985 at Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, and had tryouts at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago (1986) and Curran Theatre in San Francisco (1987) before opening on Broadway in March 1987 at the 46th Street Theatre, where it ran for 536 performances. Fences won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for drama, 1987 Tony Award for best play and 1987 Drama Desk Award for outstanding play, as well as the 2010 Tony Award for best revival of a play and 2010 Drama Desk Award for outstanding revival of a play. San Francisco-based commercial theater producer Carol Shorenstein Hays, who produced both the 1987 Broadway premiere and 2010 revival, is the only producer in the 66 year history of the Tony Awards to win for two different productions of the same play. The most financially successful play in Wilson's Century Cycle, Fences has regularly been revived with the country's top actors taking on the roles of Troy - James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Yaphet Kotto, Laurence Fishbourne, John Beasley and Denzel Washington - and Rose - Mary Alice, Lynne Thigpen, Angela Bassett, Tamara Tunie and Viola Davis. Besides its Broadway tryout in 1987, Fences has been produced locally at TheatreWorks in 2000, by the San Jose Multicultural Artists Guild and Tabia African-American Theatre Ensemble in 2007, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in 2008 and Altarena Playhouse in 2012.
The recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes, a Tony Award, a Laurence Olivier Award and the National Humanities Medal, Wilson is often cited as one of America's greatest dramatists and, until his death in 2005 at the age of 60, was an outspoken leader in American regional and commercial theater, particularly known for promoting and mentoring black theater artists. MTC previously produced his Seven Guitars in 2011. The production was nominated for eight San Francisco Bay Area Critics Circle Awards, winning best ensemble, best performance by a female actor in a lead role (Omoze Idehenre), best costume design (Callie Floor) and best lighting design (Kurt Landisman).
For the first time, three of the Bay Area's most celebrated actors - Carl Lumbly, Steven Anthony Jones and Margo Hall - will share the same stage in MTC's Fences. Lumbly, known for his nearly 100 television and film credits (particularly his recurring roles on Cagney and Lacey, Alias and M.A.N.T.I.S.) has won recent critical acclaim for his work on Bay Area stages, including Terminus at Magic Theatre and Storefront Church and Motherfucker with a Hat at SF Playhouse. Jones, artistic director of the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, returns to the stage for the first time in four years; he was last seen in Scapin at A.C.T., where he was a core company member for over 20 years. Returning to MTC where she was last seen in Seven Guitars in 2011, Hall has recently been seen a Z Space in her autobiographical new play Be Bop Baby: A Musical Memoir about her stepfather Teddy Harris, Jr., a Motown musician and composer who worked with the Supremes, Paul Butterfield and Aretha Franklin, as well as A Winter's Tale and American Night: The Ballad of Juan José at Cal Shakes.
Fences marks the MTC and Bay Area debut of director Derrick Sanders, one of the country's preeminent interpreters of the work of August Wilson. He worked directly with the playwright as assistant director on his world premieres of Radio Golf and Gem of the Ocean on Broadway and at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, as well as Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and Huntington Theatre in Boston for Radio Golf. He's also directed Wilson's King Hedley II Off-Broadway at Signature Theatre and as part of the "August Wilson's 20th Century" staged reading festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; Seven Guitars for Congo Square Theatre Company in Chicago and "August Wilson's 20th Century," Joe Turner's Come and Gone at Center Stage in Baltimore and Congo Square; Fences and Radio Golf at Virginia Stage Company and Jitney at True Colors Theatre in Atlanta. He also organizes Chicago's August Wilson Monologue Competition, which "gives high school students an opportunity to explore and share the richness of August Wilson's Century Cycle."
Recommended for ages 13 and up. Student Matinee performances for middle and high schools will be offered. To learn more, call MTC's Education Department, (415) 388-5200 ext. 3310.
The show runs April 10 - May 11, 2014. Opening Night: Tuesday, April 15. Previews: Thursday, April 10 - Sunday, April 13. Performance Days: Tue, Thu, Fri & Sat 8:00 pm; Wed 7:30 pm; and Sun 7:00 pm. Matinees: Every Sun 2:00 pm; Sat 4/19, 5/3 & 5/10, 2:00 pm; and Thu 4/24, 1:00 pm. Check marintheatre.org or call the box office at (415) 388-5208 for exact performance dates and times. Marin Theatre Company is located at 397 Miller Avenue, Mill Valley, Calif. Prices: $37-$58.
August Wilson (playwright) authored Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner's Come and Gone (New York Drama Critics Circle Award), Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (NYDCC Award), The Piano Lesson (Pulitzer Prize and NYDCC Award), Seven Guitars (NYDCC Award), Fences (Pulitzer Prize, Tony and NYDCC Awards), Two Trains Running (NYDCC Award), Jitney (Olivier and NYDCC Awards), King Hedley II and Radio Golf. These works explore the heritage and experience of African Americans, decade by decade, over the course of the 20th century. His plays have been produced at regional theaters across the country and all over the world, as well as on Broadway. In 2003, Wilson made his professional stage debut in his one-man show, How I Learned What I Learned. He received an Emmy Award nomination for his screenplay adaptation of The Piano Lesson. His early works included the one-act plays The Janitor, Recycle, The Coldest Day of the Year, Malcolm X, The Homecoming and the musical satire Black Bart and the Sacred Hills. Wilson received many fellowships and awards, including Rockefeller and Guggenheim Fellowships in Playwriting, the Whiting Writers Award, Heinz Award and the National Humanities Medal. Following his death in October 2005, the Broadway theater located at 245 West 52nd Street was renamed the August Wilson Theatre.
Derrick Sanders (director) makes his MTC and Bay Area debuts with Fences. Most recently, he directed The Mountaintop at Virginia Stage Company, the world premiere of Mr. Chickee's Funny Money at Chicago Children's Theatre, Clybourne Park at University of Illinois at Chicago School of Theatre and Music, and Clybourne Park and the world premiere of Beneatha's Place for "The Raisin Cycle" at Center Stage in Baltimore. His other credits include King Hedley II at the Off-Broadway Signature Theatre; Seven Guitars and King Hedley II for "August Wilson's 20th Century" at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.; Joe Turner's Come and Gone at Center Stage; Fences and Radio Golf at Virginia Stage; Jitney and Stick Fly at True Colors Theatre in Atlanta; Sanctified at Lincoln Theater in Washington, D.C.; Gee's Bend at Cincinnati Playhouse, which won Acclaim Awards for best director and outstanding production; Topdog/Underdog at American Theatre Company in Chicago; the world premieres of Bud, Not Buddy and Jackie and Me at Chicago Children Theatre; and the world premiere of Five Fingers of Funk at Minneapolis Children's Theatre. Sanders was assistant director of August Wilson's world premiere productions of Radio Golf and Gem of the Ocean on Broadway and at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, as well as the Huntington Theatre in Boston and Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles for Radio Golf. As the founding artistic director of Congo Square Theatre Company in Chicago, he directed numerous productions including Joe Turner's Come and Gone, which won Black Theatre Alliance Awards for best production and direction; Seven Guitars, which won Joseph Jefferson Awards for best production and direction; and the world premiere of Deep Azure. A member of UIC's Theatre Faculty, he organizes Chicago's August Wilson Monologue Competition. He was named Chicago Tribune's Chicagoan of the Year in 2005. In March, Sanders made his filmmaking debut at the Queens World Film Festival in New York City with the premiere of his short Perfect Day. He received his BFA from Howard University and MFA from University of Pittsburgh.
Margo Hall (Rose) has previously appeared at MTC in August Wilson's Seven Guitars. Her recent Bay Area credits include Be Bop Baby: A Musical Memoir, which she also wrote in collaboration with Nakissa Etemad, at Z Space; A Winter's Tale, American Night: The Ballad of Juan José and Spunk at Cal Shakes; and The Motherfucker with the Hat at SF Playhouse. Her other acting credits include A.C.T., Berkeley Rep, Aurora Theatre Company, Magic Theatre, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre and Brava! for Women in the Arts in the Bay Area, as well as for the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis; and Arena Stage, Olney Theater and Source Theater in the Washington, D.C. area. Hall is a founding member of Campo Santo, a resident theater company at Intersection for the Arts, where she has acted in over 17 productions, including plays by Chinaka Hodge, Jessica Hagedorn, Naomi Iizuka, Philip Gotanda, Octavio Solis, and many more. She has also toured France with Word For Word as actor and director with four shows. In 2005, she made her writing debut as a collaborator (with Grey Pierrotti, and Stephen Wangh) on Leigh Fondakowski's The People's Temple, which won the 2005 Will Glickman Award for best new play and premiered at Berkeley Rep with Hall as an actor in the play.
Eddie Ray Jackson (Cory) makes his MTC debut in August Wilson's Fences. Originally from San Francisco, he is a new company member of Oregon Shakespeare Festival and recently appeared in The Heart of Robin Hood. His New York credits include Much Ado About Nothing at Classic Stage Company; A Midsummer Night's Dream and La Ronde at Riverside Theatre; and Miss Julie, The Proposal and Endgame at Columbia University. His film and television credits include Couched, Subway Candy, Ex-Girlfriends, Sideways and Tape. Jackson received an MFA in Acting from Columbia University and BA in Theatre Arts from California State University, Sacramento. eddierjackson.com
Steven Anthony Jones (Jim Bono) makes his MTC debut in August Wilson's Fences. He is the artistic director of Lorraine Hansberry Theatre [LHT] and a 40-year veteran of stage, film and television. At LHT, he has directed a number of full productions and staged readings, including Marcus Gardley's Black Odyssey and Dominique Morisseau's Detroit '67. In January 2013, he and playwright Philip Kan Gotanda presented a workshop of The Jamaican Wash Project, their adaptation Gotanda's play The Wash, at A.C.T.'s Costume Shop. Jones was a core company member at A.C.T. for 22 years, teaching, directing and acting in Blood Knot, After the War, Gem of the Ocean, Levee James, The Dazzle, Seven Guitars, Othello (title role), Clara, Joe Turner's Come and Gone and more. He originated the role of Private James Wilkie in Charles Fuller's A Soldier's Play at the Negro Ensemble Company in New York. His many film and television credits include a recurring role on NBC's Trauma and two seasons on NBC's Midnight Caller.
Carl Lumbly (Troy) makes his MTC debut in August Wilson's Fences. His prolific career includes over 50 credits in television, film and theater and considerable critical acclaim. Locally, he has appeared onstage in Terminus at Magic Theatre, The Motherfucker with the Hat at SF Playhouse and Blue/Orange at Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, among others. He recently had a recurring role on the TNT's cop drama Southland and may be best known for his five seasons on Alias and seven seasons on Cagney and Lacey. His extensive feature film credits include Men of Honor, Everybody's All-American, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, South Central, Pacific Heights, To Sleep With Anger, The Bedroom Window, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai and Caveman. He's also starred in the telefilms Color of Friendship, Little Richard, On Promised Land, The Ditchdigger's Daughters, Nightjohn and Sounder (2003). Lumbly's voice was featured in Cartoon Network's animated series Justice League.
Adrian Roberts (Gabriel) makes his MTC debut in August Wilson's Fences. He was last seen as Martin Luther King Jr. in The Mountaintop at TheatreWorks. His other Bay Area credits include Hamlet at Cal Shakes, Ruined at Berkeley Rep, First Person Shooter at SF Playhouse and Buffaloed at San Jose Stage. His regional credits include Playboy of the West Indies at Lincoln Center, Topdog/Underdog at Sacramento Theater Company and three seasons as a company member of Oregon Shakespeare Festival, among many others. Roberts has appeared in such television shows as Scrubs, Criminal Minds, Brothers & Sisters and Syfy's movie Vampires: Out For Blood. He is a graduate of A.C.T.'s MFA program.
Tyee Tilghman (Gabriel) makes his MTC debut in August Wilson's Fences. Locally, he has appeared in The Winter's Tale, Lady Windermere's Fan, American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose and Spunk at Cal Shakes; A Christmas Carol at A.C.T.; and Thieves at A.C.T.'s Costume Shop. Regionally, he has acted in New York in Love's Labour's Lost, The Three Sisters and The Brothers Size at Chautauqua Theater Company; in Denver in A Raisin in the Sun at Denver Center for the Performing Arts; Eurydice, The War Anthology, Take Me Out and Yellowman at Curious Theater Company; and This is How it Goes with Paragon Theatre; and in Washington D.C. in Ameriville at DC Hip Hop Theater Festival, Romeo & Juliet at Folger Theatre, A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Shakespeare Theater Company and An American Daughter at Arena Stage. He has been a teaching artist with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts's Living History program, Mi Casa and A.C.T.'s Young Conservatory. Tilghman received an MFA from A.C.T and a BFA in Drama from West Virginia University.
ABOUT MTC: Founded in 1966, Marin Theatre Company is the Bay Area's premier mid-sized theater and the leading professional theater in the North Bay. We produce a six-show season of provocative plays by passionate playwrights from the 20th century and today in our 231-seat main stage theater, as well as a five-show Theater Series for Young Audiences in partnership with the Bay Area Children's Theatre in our 99-seat studio theater. We are committed to the development and production of new plays by American playwrights, with a comprehensive New Play Program that includes productions of world premieres, two nationally recognized annual playwriting awards, readings and workshops by the nation's best emerging playwrights and membership in the National New Play Network. Our numerous education programs serve more than 6,000 students from over 40 Bay Area schools each year. MTC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Photo Credit: Lauren English