August Wilson's Jitney will drive into Rochester's Geva Theatre on April 6 before it sets off for Chicago's Goodman Theatre on a ride that, according to Geva, may wind up on Broadway.
Jitney, Wilson's earliest play, was written in 1979. Since that time it has gone through numerous revisions and been mounted in regional theatres nationwide. Though Geva's press department terms the production "pre-Broadway," few details of those plans are available, and a spokesperson at the Goodman Theatre had no knowledge of those intentions.
The play is part of Wilson's decade-by-decade chronicle of the twentieth century. It takes place in 1977. Set in the Hill district of Pittsburgh, where Wilson grew up, the play centers around a gypsy (or jitney) cab station. Through the conflict of impending demolition and the reunion of a jitney driver and his estranged son recently released from prison, Wilson presents a group of workers unified by their pride, humor and hardship.
Other works in Wilson's chronicle series include: Joe Turner's Come and Gone set in 1910, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom set in 1920, The Piano Lesson set in 1930, Seven Guitars set in 1940, Fences set in 1950, and Two Trains Running set in 1960.
Wilson holds two Pulitzers for his plays Fences and The Piano Lesson. Fences also received the Tony Award for best play in 1987. Director Marion McClinton is no stranger to Wilson's work; he has directed or acted in all of Wilson's plays in various theatres across the country. McClinton is an Associate Artist of Center Stage in Baltimore.
Lighting designer for Jitney Donald Holder recently received Tony and Drama Desk awards for his work on Disney's The Lion King. The sound designer is Rob Milburn (Buried Child, Grapes of Wrath), the costume designer Susan E. Mickey (costumes for the HBO movie "Miss Evers Boys").
The cast of Jitney includes Willis Burks II, Paul Butler, Anthony Chisholm, Laverne Clay, Leo V. Finnie III, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Hornsby, Keith Randolph Smith and Michole Briana White.
Jitney begins previews at Geva April 6, opens April 10 and runs through May 9. Tickets are $7.50-$41. For more information or reservations call Geva Theatre box office at (716) 232-4382.
Jitney will open at the Goodman Theatre June 28 and run through Aug. 1.
-- by Becki Heller