10 Baltimore Theaters To Present August Wilson's American Century Cycle From 2024-2027

10 iconic plays presented in the chronological order in which the plays depict Wilson's indelible canon about Black life in America in the 20th century.

By: Mar. 29, 2024
10 Baltimore Theaters To Present August Wilson's American Century Cycle From 2024-2027
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Ten theater companies in Baltimore are undertaking an unprecedented joint project with the 3-yearBaltimore August Wilson Celebration, which will present the late, legendary playwright's August Wilson American Century Cycle of plays in another first:  his 10 iconic plays presented in the chronological order in which the plays depict Wilson's indelible canon about Black life in America in the 20th century.

From GEM OF THE OCEAN set in 1904 to RADIO GOLF set in 1990, a different Baltimore company will present a play from the August Wilson Century Cycle from 2024-27,  according to Lesley Malin, producing executive director of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (7 Calvert St.) in Baltimore.  

While Wilson did not write his renowned  American Century Cycle in chronological order, theBaltimore August Wilson Celebration will present them as such, believed to be the first time such an effort has been undertaken.  Baltimore's August Wilson Celebration begins in April when Baltimore's revered Arena Players presents GEM OF THE OCEAN, a powerful, fanciful drama about a 285-year-old matriarch who invites two men into her home: a Civil War soldier born into slavery and another young man in search of new life and redemption.  

The ARENA PLAYERS production of GEM OF THE OCEAN runs April 5-28 at Arena Players (801 McCulloh St.)  Arena players is the oldest continuously operating African-American community theater in the U.S., dating to 1953 – more than 70 years of community service and outstanding dramatic achievement.  

Subsequent productions in theBaltimore August Wilson Celebration will be produced by Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Baltimore Center Stage, ArtsCentric, Fell's Point Corner Theatre and others to be announced.  While CSC is spearheading the CELEBRATION, the project expected to roll out 2024-27 is a joint production of the entire theatre community.  

Ms. Malin states, “Baltimore has a vibrant, but siloed theatre community.  Seemingly, there has never been a time when Baltimore theatres have worked together for a common artistic goal – a festival of productions.  Until now…”

Ms. Malin, who conceived the all-encompassingBaltimore August Wilson Celebration, states that while Wilson set his plays in his native Pittsburgh (notably, the city's Hill District), “Baltimore is a good fit, too, given the common threads between the two cities – working class, port cities with inferiority complexes and a powerful, vivid Black culture.”

Constanza Romero, a Tony Award-nominated costume designer and wife of the late August Wilson states, “I would like to express how pleased and thrilled I am about Baltimore's August Wilson's American Century Cycle Celebration!  I humbly consider my beloved late husband one of the most important American playwrights of the 20th century.  In recognition of August's contribution, it is fitting to have various talents across all disciplines come together to put their experience and craft forward for this city-wide collaboration.  I will be in full support of this endeavor and most grateful to all its participants.”

Full Schedule of Shows

--GEM OF THE OCEAN – set in 1904, premiered 2003; Baltimore August Wilson Celebration production by Arena Players April 5-28

--JOE TURNER'S COME AND GONE – set in 1911, premiered 1986; WILSON CELEBRATION production September 20-October 13  at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company

--MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM – set in 1927, premiered 1984; WILSON CELEBRATION in March 2025 at ArtsCentric

--THE PIANO LESSON – set in 1936, premiered in 1987

--SEVEN GUITARS – set in 1948, premiered in 1995

--FENCES – set in 1957, premiere 1987

--TWO TRAINS RUNNING – set in 1969, premiered 1990

--JITNEY – set in 1977, premiere 1982; WILSON CELEBRATION production by Fell's Point Corner Theatre

--KING HEDLEY II – set in 1985, premiered 1999; WILSON CELEBRATION production by Baltimore Center Stage

--RADIO GOLF – set in 1990, premiered 2005

An event to launch theBaltimore August Wilson Celebration will be held on April 21.  Details TBA.

Upon the announcement of the August Wilson American Century Cycle coming to life on Baltimore stages, a variety of city artist and participants have this to say aboutBaltimore August Wilson Celebration: 

Donald Owens, artistic director of Arena Players quotes from THE GEM OF THE OCEAN, which will kick off the project: “'This is a peaceful house.' Thus starts the 10-decade August Wilson Cycle.  It is a statement full of irony when you consider the journey across the ocean that includes the death of many.”

Stevie Walker Webb, Baltimore Center Stage artistic director adds,  "Our theater has a long, beautiful history with August Wilson's work. If we see the American Theatre as a body, then August Wilson is surely its heartbeat. Taking part in this momentous celebration of his work with our sibling theaters, in a city that at times feels so much like the one in his plays, means so much to us here at Baltimore Center Stage."

Bill Henry, Baltimore City Comptroller states, "I am both enormously excited by and incredibly proud of the upcomingBaltimore August Wilson Celebration. As a Baltimorean, I look forward to this opportunity to enjoy Wilson's entire Century Cycle of plays over the next few years; as a longtime member of our theatre community, it is heartwarming to see so many of our companies working together to provide our City with this experience."

Tracie Jiggetts, Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, Arts Leadership:  "August Wilson's work feels like home. His stories have helped me shape my artistic journey. Celebrating his work with Baltimore's amazing theatre community is a dream come true!"

Mecca Verdell, Baltimore poet and teaching artist, "I remember SEVEN GUITARS -- the first play I saw at Arena Players when I moved to Baltimore as a teen, I Immediately grew obsessed with seeing Baltimore theater before becoming a part of it!" - Mecca Verdell

Lesley Malin, executive producing director, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company says, “The August Wilson American Century Cycle is one of the greatest triumphs of the stage, an endeavor that has indelibly brought the Black American experience to life in all its richness and power.  I am thrilled that theBaltimore August Wilson Celebration can bring the Baltimore Theatre community together in a unique shared effort and introduce these essential works to a new generation of Baltimore theatre-goers.  I hope Baltimore will be the first of many American cities to honor Wilson's legacy in this way.”