The performance held at O'Neill Theatre Center July 23 in Waterford, CT, was part of a tribute and launch of the newly-established August Wilson Endowed Fellowship. Broadway producer Tom Viertel — who serves as the O'Neill board chairman — told the daily there was much interest in moving the piece to New York City. "I have rarely been at anything, whether in the commercial theatre or the non-profit theatre, where people weren't only anxious to see it in New York but were eager to put money in it. It's just a great piece of theatre and it is something that should be widely seen."
Tony Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning actor Dutton — seen in Wilson's Ma Rainey's Block Bottom and The Piano Lesson on Broadway — performed a number of scenes from the plays of Wilson joined by fellow Emmy winner Merkerson ("Law & Order," "Lackawanna Blues"), also a vet of Broadway's The Piano Lesson.
Dutton was quoted as saying "I got a lot of calls about it, and I would love to be able to do it in New York." He went on to say "I'm working out my approach to her," about requesting rights to use Wilson's work from his widow, Constanza Romero, who handles the estate.
Wilson is remembered for his epic cycle of plays chronicling the African-American experience in the past century decade by decade. The undertaking (in order of decade which the drama is set) includes 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.
The August Wilson Endowed Fellowship will fully underwrite a playwright's residency at the O'Neill Conference every year. For more information or to make a contribution, call (860) 443-5378, ext. 213.