August Wilson's Jitney, currently motoring around the U.S., will find a New York home at the Off-Broadway company Second Stage. A spokesman for the theatre told Playbill On-Line that the drama will reach Gotham in April 2000, after a run at the Mark Taper Forum, which is co-producing the play with Second Stage.
Jitney, Wilson's earliest play, was written in 1979. The work 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.
Jitney is currently playing at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, where it has extended its run until Aug. 8. In the tradition of past Wilson plays, Jitney has criss-crossed the nation, received several productions at theatres such as Rochester's Geva Theatre and Baltimore's Center Stage. Its next stop after the Goodman is L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum, where it will open Feb. 3, 2000.
There will be one cast change with the Goodman extension. Doub, the role previously played by Barry Shabaka Henley, will now be filled by Ron Dortch. The rest of the cast remains the same and includes Willis Burks II, Paul Butler, Anthony Chisholm, Leo V. Finnie III, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Russell Hornsby, Keith Randolph Smith and Michole Briana White. Marion McClinton is the director.
* McClinton, while no stranger to Wilson's work, is also a familiar face at Second Stage. He is currently rehearsing Jar the Floor, the latest by playwright Cheryl L. West, which begins performances at the company's new Eighth Avenue space on July 28 for an official opening of Aug. 11. The cast features Regina Taylor, Irma P. Hall and Lynne Thigpen. Marion McClinton directs.
West has a history at Second Stage, which previously mounted her Before It Hits Home. Though Jar the Floor has been around for several years and received many regional productions (including seven featuring Hall), this marks its New York premiere. West has reportedly made substantial revisions to the script in preparation for the Second Stage production.
The play looks at four generations of African-American women who gather to celebrate the family's great grandmother's 90th birthday. The connections between the various mothers and daughters are exposed when the youngest member of the clan arrives with an unexpected guest.
Taylor, a playwright herself, has appeared Off-Broadway in The Illusion and A Map of the World. Her own plays include Escape from Paradise. On television, she starred in the well-regarded series "I'll Fly Away."
Thigpen is a stage veteran, winning a Tony nomination for the musical Tintypes and the award itself for her portrayal of a Jewish, black professional experiencing a mid-life meltdown in Wendy Wasserstein's An American Daughter. Her many film credits include "The Paper" and "Tootsie."
Also in the cast are Linda Powell and Welker White.
McClinton is best known for his extensive work with playwright August Wilson. He most recently directed Wilson's Jitney at several theatres across the nation.
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-- By Robert Simonson