August Wilson's KING HEDLEY II Opens Tonight at The Matrix Theatre

August Wilson's KING HEDLEY II Opens Tonight at The Matrix Theatre

Actress and producer Sophina Brown is on a mission to bring the wonderful work of August Wilson to the Los Angeles community. Her goal is to produce August Wilson's American Century Cycle in Los Angeles in its entirety. What begin as a group of actors meeting up to read August Wilson plays at her house, has evolved into the first production.

August Wilson's King Hedley II opens on January 26 and continues through February 12, 2017 as a guest production of The Matrix Theatre.

Michele Shay, award winning actress, director and producer will direct this epic tragedy. Set in the tumultuous, changing times of 1985, King Hedley II mirrors today's current issues of systemic racism, underemployment and a broken criminal justice system. The play follows King, an ex-felon, as he struggles to attain economic freedom and build a new life for his growing family, amid the adverse conditions of Reaganomics and increasing violence in the black community. The play touches on themes of love, forgiveness and sacrifice.

Shay is no stranger to Wilson's work. She worked directly with Wilson when she played Louise in the Broadway premiere of Seven Guitars at the Walter Kerr Theatre. Her stellar performance garnered a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play. She also played Aunt Ester in Gem of the Ocean at the Alliance Theater, Seattle Rep and A.C.T., and she originated the role of Mame Wilks in the world premiere of Radio Golf at the Yale Repertory Theater.

The title character, King, is played by Esau Pritchett, who last starred as Troy Maxson in Fences at the Long Wharf Theatre. He has had television appearances on shows like HBO's The Night Of, and will be on Netflix's upcoming Marvel Series, Iron Fist.

Ella Joyce plays his mother Ruby, a character who first appears as a young woman in Seven Guitars. Joyce originated the role of Tonya in the world premiere of King Hedley II at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre. She also originated the role of Risa in the world premiere of Two Trains Running at the Yale Repertory Theatre, before taking on the role of Eleanor on FOX's hit comedy Roc.

Ciera Payton, who co-starred alongside Nicholas Cage in The Runner, takes on the role of Tonya in this production. Payton was previously directed by Shay when she played Black Mary in Gem of the Ocean at the North Carolina School of the Arts.

Montae Russell, a native of Pittsburgh, is the first actor to have performed in all 10 of the August Wilson's Century Cycle Plays. He made his Broadway debut when he played the role of Mister in King Hedley II at the Virginia Theatre. Local audiences may remember him as Booster from South Coast Repertory's production of Jitney.

This is the first ever August Wilson play for actor Jon Chaffin from Tyler Perry's The Haves and the Have Nots. Chaffin is excited to play Mister alongside Russell who is also his brother through Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

Adolphus Ward portrays Stool Pigeon, a role he previously took on in a production at Swine Palace Theatre. He also performed as Holloway in Two Trains Running for the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. He won an Ovation Award and Los Angeles Drama Critic Circle Award for his portrayal of Solly in Gem of the Ocean at The Fountain Theatre. He was nominated for an Ovation Award for his role in Joe Turner's Come and Gone also a The Fountain Theatre.

Scenic design is by John Iacovelli, costume design is by Mylette Nora, lighting design is by Derek Jones, sound design is by Kevin Novinsky and the production stage manager is David Blackwell.

After seeing the 2001 Broadway opening, Ben Brantley of The New York Times stated "you will hear some of the finest monologues ever written for an American stage, speeches that build gritty, often brutal details into fiery patterns of insight." The Broadway production garnered 6 Tony Awards nominations.

Tickets for King Hedley II are available at or by calling 1-800-838-3006 Ext. 1. Tickets are $35 (group rates are available). The Matrix Theatre is located at 7657 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046.

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