Signature Theatre Company's Plan for an August Wilson Season Is Back On Track

News   Signature Theatre Company's Plan for an August Wilson Season Is Back On Track Off-Broadway's Signature Theatre Company announced Nov. 30 that, after further discussion with the August Wilson Estate, the company will reinstate its plans to present playwright August Wilson's works in 2006 as part of its 15th Anniversary line-up.
August Wilson
August Wilson Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Three plays from Wilson's 10-play cycle, Seven Guitars, Two Trains Running and King Hedley II, will be presented, beginning in fall 2006.

Dates and full creative teams for the three productions will be announced in the coming weeks.

Signature founding artistic director James Houghton stated, "We are extremely grateful to August's wife, Constanza Romero, for initiating the further discussions that led to this very happy outcome. We look forward to working with her as we continue to schedule the season and do all that we can to honor this great American playwright. We're thrilled that she has accepted our invitation to be involved with the company throughout the season. Her guidance will be invaluable."

Constanza Romero said in a statement, "I thank Jim Houghton and everyone at Signature for allowing us the time we needed to have some clarity about the immediate future of August's legacy. My husband had great admiration for Signature, a sentiment echoed by so many of his collaborators. I'm very pleased that the company will be able to proceed with its very gracious tribute and was happy to work with Jim in choosing the plays for the season."

To make theatre accessible to the broadest possible audience, Signature has partnered with Time Warner, Inc. to establish a groundbreaking ticket initiative offering every seat at every show for $15 throughout the 15th Anniversary. All three August Wilson productions are included in this initiative. Here is a breakdown of the works to be staged by Signature:

  • Seven Guitars — "Hope and heartbreak abound in Pittsburgh's Hill district as seven people share frustration, joy and loss in 1948. Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton, an aspiring blues musician, returns home to seek his fortune and reclaim his woman; a sick old man longs for an heir to carry on his name; and three single women cope with betrayal and lost dreams. Like seven musical instruments, each one strikes a singular note in a discordant world." The play was seen on Broadway in 1996; it was nominated for a Tony Award (Best Play).
  • Two Trains Running — "In 1969 Pittsburgh, the regulars at a popular local diner grind out an existence against the backdrop of a turbulent world and rapidly changing city. Memphis Lee looks to prevent the demolition of his restaurant in the face of a municipal project while across the street, Mr. West, the local funeral director, has more business than he can handle. Faced with racial inequality, a depressed economy and the threat of violence, the local residents fight to hang on to their solidarity and sense of community." The play was seen on Broadway in 1992; it was nominated for a Tony Award (Best Play).
  • King Hedley II — "Set in a backyard in the decaying Hill district of Pittsburgh, King Hedley II follows the characters created by August Wilson in Seven Guitars. A woman is tormented by a secret she has kept for 36 years, while her only son returns home after serving time for murder to find a neighborhood riddled with crime, poverty and broken families. King's epic struggle to survive is at the center of this poetic portrayal of life in the inner city during the 1980s." The play was seen on Broadway in 2001; it was nominated for a Tony Award (Best Play). It was also a 2000 nominee for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Pulitzer Prize winner Wilson died of cancer Oct. 2. He was 60 years old. Announced far in advance of Wilson's summer revelation that he was battling liver cancer, the previously announced August Wilson season at Signature was to begin in fall 2006 with a new production of Two Trains Running. The season was to also feature Wilson's one-man show How I Learned What I Learned; and a marathon reading of all the dramas that make up his decade-by-decade examination of African-American life during the 20th century.

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    As part of its 15th Anniversary, Signature has launched the "Signature Series," a program presenting celebrated works by previous resident writers. The "Signature Series" began Nov. 15, 2005 with Horton Foote's The Trip to Bountiful, directed by Harris Yulin, and featuring Lois Smith as Carrie Watts and Hallie Foote as Jessie Mae.

    The series will continue in the spring with John Guare's Landscape of the Body, directed by Michael Greif and starring Lili Taylor and Sherie Rene Scott (March 28-May 21, 2006). Signature will also present a free staged reading of Adrienne Kennedy's adaptation of Madame Bovary as part of its 15th Anniversary expanded programming.

    The August Wilson series will begin in Fall 2006 and round out the 15th Anniversary celebration, a 20-month celebration.

    Signature presents at Peter Norton Space, 555 W. 42nd Street (between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues).

    For subscription and ticket information, call (212) 244-PLAY or visit www.signaturetheatre.org.

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