Fences Is Heading to the Silver Screen with Two-Time Tony Winner

News   Fences Is Heading to the Silver Screen with Two-Time Tony Winner
 
Viola Davis, who won a Tony Award for her performance as Rose in the 2010 revival of August Wilson's Fences, will star in a feature film version of the award-winning drama that is set in 1957 Pittsburgh.

The Oscar-winning actress told the New York Times, "They are making Fences, August Wilson’s play, into a feature that Denzel Washington is directing and I’m going to be in."

A film version of Fences was discussed as early as 1990, but playwright August Wilson was famously adamant that the project could go forward only if it had a black director, as the original 1987 Broadway production had had (Lloyd Richards). Wilson, who died in 2005, appears to have gotten his way at last.

Washington starred on Broadway opposite Davis, also winning a Tony for his work as disillusioned sanitation worker Troy Maxson who once dreamed of a baseball career.

Viola Davis
Viola Davis Photo by Joan Marcus

The first Broadway revival of Fences, the 1987 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play by Wilson, officially opened at the Cort Theatre April 26, 2010, following previews that began April 14. The limited engagement continued through July 11, 2010.

The cast also featured Chris Chalk as Cory, Stephen McKinley Henderson as Jim Bono, Russell Hornsby as Lyons, Mykelti Williamson as Gabriel, with Eden Duncan-Smith and SaCha Stewart-Coleman alternating in the role of Raynell. Branford Marsalis, the Grammy-winning saxophonist, composed music for the Broadway revival.

Fences won the Tony Award, Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Play Revival, as well as Tony Awards for Best Actor Washington and Best Actress Davis. Drama Desk Awards were presented to Davis and Branford Marsalis (for his score), and Outer Critics Circle Awards went to Washington for Best Actor and Davis for Best Actress. Davis also won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Sustained Excellence, and director Kenny Leon received a Drama League Award for Excellence in Directing. Chris Chalk won a 2010 Theatre World Award for his performance.

Fences is the 1987 Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning play by Wilson — one play in a cycle of ten about the African-American experience in the 20th century.

Fences takes place over eight years from 1957 to 1965. Washington stars as Troy Maxson, a Pittsburgh sanitation worker who once dreamed of a baseball career, but was too old when the major leagues finally admitted black players. According to production notes, "As he faces off against the racial barrier at work and his own disappointments, Troy also grapples with his son, Cory, over the teenager's hope for a football scholarship and with his wife, Rose (Viola Davis), who confronts Troy over a child he has fathered with another woman."

Fences originally starred James Earl Jones as Troy. The original Broadway production won four Tony Awards including Best Play, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, three Drama Desk Awards, including Best Play and the NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play.

Davis, who was also Tony-honored for her work in Wilson's King Hedley II, has a full plate. In addition to her TV series "Getting Away with Murder," she told the Times, "My husband and I started a production company, and we are doing Harriet Tubman’s story for HBO that Kirk Ellis is writing. And Tony Kushner is writing a project that we got greenlit at Fox Searchlight about the great congresswoman out of Texas, Barbara Jordan. I’m always moving."

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