Signature's August Wilson Celebration Begins Aug. 24 With Guitars Opening

News   Signature's August Wilson Celebration Begins Aug. 24 With Guitars Opening Signature Theatre Company's new Off-Broadway production of August Wilson's Seven Guitars opens Aug. 24 after previews previews from July 31, boasting a $15 ticket price.
Lance Reddick as Floyd Barton in Seven Guitars.
Lance Reddick as Floyd Barton in Seven Guitars. Photo by Carol Rosegg

The play kicks off Signature's 2006-07 celebration of the life and work of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning Wilson, who died in fall 2005.

Seven Guitars continues to Sept. 23 at Signature's 160-seat Off-Broadway home at the Peter Norton Space, 555 W. 42nd Street.

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The revival is part of Signature's 15th Anniversary Celebration and The August Wilson Series, the first New York exploration of the late writer's body of work. Three Wilson plays will be staged by Signature in 2006-07.

Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson (who won a Tony Award for his performance in the original 1995-96 Broadway production of Seven Guitars) and featuring original music written for this production by Obie winner and blues legend Bill Sims, Seven Guitars has a cast that includes Kevin Carroll (Angels in America, Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk) as Canewell; Cassandra Freeman (Spike Lee's "Inside Man") as Ruby; Stephen McKinley Henderson (King Hedley II, Jitney) as Red Carter; Brenda Pressley (Dreamgirls, Fran's Bed) as Louise; Lance Reddick ("Oz," "The Wire") as Floyd Barton; Roslyn Ruff (The Cherry Orchard, Macbeth for Classical Theatre of Harlem) as Vera; and Charles Weldon (co-founder of Negro Ensemble Company) as Hedley. "Hope and heartbreak abound in Pittsburgh's Hill District as seven people share frustration, joy and loss in 1948," according to Signature. "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."

"August left so much for us to do and to explore," director Ruben Santiago-Hudson said in production notes. "He was fully in love with African-American people, their laughter, anger, style and perseverance. It's a glorious thing for me to be in a position to honor the integrity of this man's work, which says: All my people are worthy and their worst qualities are redeemable."

Seven Guitars has scenic design by Richard Hoover; costumes by Karen Perry; lights by Jane Cox; sound by Darron L. West; and fight direction by Rick Sordelet.

"August Wilson's contribution to the American theatre is beyond measure," stated James Houghton. "We are thrilled to be presenting three of his legendary 20th-century cycle plays and deeply honored by the faith his estate has bestowed upon Signature Theatre Company. As August worked with us over the past few years he was excited for his work to be presented in New York in an intimate setting and at an affordable price making the work accessible to all. We hope to do him proud."

August Wilson (April 27, 1945-Oct. 2, 2005) authored Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II and Radio Golf. These works explore the heritage and experience of African Americans, decade-by-decade, over the course of the 20th century. Wilson's plays have been produced at regional theatres across the country and all over the world, as well as on Broadway. In 2003, Wilson made his professional stage debut in his one-man show, How I Learned What I Learned. His works garnered many awards, including Pulitzer Prizes for Fences (1987); and for The Piano Lesson (1990); a Tony Award for Fences; Great Britain's Olivier Award for Jitney; as well as seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars and Jitney. Wilson received a 1995 Emmy Award nomination for his screenplay adaptation of The Piano Lesson. Wilson's early works included the one-act plays The Janitor, Recycle, The Coldest Day of the Year, Malcolm X, The Homecoming and the musical satire Black Bart and the Sacred Hills.

"To make great theatre accessible to the broadest possible audience," Signature has established a special $15 ticket price (regularly $55) for all performances in the originally scheduled eight-week runs of the three plays in the August Wilson Series: Seven Guitars, Two Trains Running (beginning performances in November) and King Hedley II (beginning performances in February 2007). This offer has also applied to the initial weeks of recent Signature works, including The Trip to Bountiful.

The $15 ticket price and the August Wilson Series are made possible by the lead sponsorship of Time Warner Inc.

Performance schedule is Mondays at 8 PM; Tuesdays at 7 PM; Wednesday matinees at 2 PM; Wednesdays-Fridays at 8 PM; and Saturdays at 2 PM and 8 PM. (There will be no performance Sept. 4 at 8 PM.)

For subscription and single ticket information, call (212) 244-PLAY (7529).

Visit www.signaturetheatre.org.

Stephen McKinley Henderson as Red Carter, Cassandra Freeman as Ruby and Kevin T. Carroll as Canewell in <i>Seven Guitars</i> at Signature Theatre Company. Opening Aug. 24.
Stephen McKinley Henderson as Red Carter, Cassandra Freeman as Ruby and Kevin T. Carroll as Canewell in Seven Guitars at Signature Theatre Company. Opening Aug. 24. Photo by Carol Rosegg
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