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Kennesaw State University To Present August Wilson's JITNEY in November

"Jitney" explores what happens when tempers flare, potent secrets are revealed, and relationships threaten to splinter.

Kennesaw State University To Present August Wilson's JITNEY in November

Kennesaw State University's Department of Theatre and Performance Studies will present August Wilson's "Jitney" Nov. 11-16 at the Stillwell Theater on the Kennesaw campus. With the uncanny ability to chronicle the African American experience, Wilson tells the story of a black-owned business being threatened by gentrification, explains TPS faculty and director Jacqueline Springfield.

It's 1977 in a Black neighborhood of Pittsburgh, and drivers of unlicensed cabs, or jitneys, fight for survival and respect as their garage is threatened in the name of neighborhood improvement. "Jitney" explores what happens when tempers flare, potent secrets are revealed, and relationships threaten to splinter.

Audiences can relate to the story because it touches on relationships of many kinds: parent/child, romantic, and even those dealing with the effects of trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder. Patrons are privy to being a part of those relationships, to seeing the slices of life happen, to connecting and resonating with those on stage.

Wilson had a knack for creating rich characters, particularly for African American actors, and a unique talent to chronicle the African American experience. The playwright uses African American language like Shakespeare used Elizabethan language. "He was such a good listener in real life, and when you see his work, you see how keen his powers of observation were; his characters are vivid, his material is incredibly rich, particularly for Black actors," explains Springfield.

In researching the playwright, she traveled to Pittsburgh and toured his childhood home, arriving just in time to see a production of "Jitney" in the newly built outdoor theater behind his home. Springfield was thrilled "to see this production in the backyard of the home where he grew up, to see the jitney station right around the corner, the one that he based his play on, to be able to do my research in that way."

Alexis Martin, a senior TPS major with a concentration in acting who plays Rena, believes that Wilson is the perfect playwright to provide opportunities for TPS' diverse student population, with representation presented in a respectful and positive light. She explains that Wilson's "work captures the poetry in our language, our feelings, and experiences. He reminds us that our existence is extraordinary and worthy of being celebrated."

Lance Avery Brown, a junior TPS major with a musical theatre concentration, plays Shealy. Wilson's "words are [both] poetic and conversational. He unapologetically shows the flaws of each character while shining a light on the journey of Black Americans in the 20th century." Brown also notes the influence of blues music and explains the playwright "throws you into this world where the influence of blues speaks through the rhythm of the show."

Springfield had specific goals when bringing the important playwright to the KSU community. She says, "I wanted students to have a chance to experience this-not only as actors but also as students-to learn about his work, to see it, and to study it as well as the production." Martin adds, "For Black actors and directors in particular, Wilson gives us the incredible and rare opportunities to tell our own stories on stage and play characters we know from our own families and community."

"Jitney" runs Nov. 11-16 at the Stillwell Theater on the Kennesaw campus. In-person tickets are available at TheatreKSU.com. Learn more about Kennesaw State University Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at arts.kennesaw.edu/theatre.




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