Wilson's Name Will Be in Lights, for a Long Run, With Oct. 16 Re-Dedication of Virginia Theatre

News   Wilson's Name Will Be in Lights, for a Long Run, With Oct. 16 Re-Dedication of Virginia Theatre
 
West 52nd Street will look a little different on Sunday night following the unveiling and lighting of the new marquee at Broadway's Virginia Theatre.
August Wilson
August Wilson Photo by Aubrey Reuben

At 8 PM Oct. 16, the 1925 theatre is being re-dedicated as the August Wilson Theatre, marking the first time a Broadway theatre has been named for an African American. The public is welcome to attend the ceremony on a first come, first served basis. Doors open at 7:45 PM.

The first half of the event will take place in the theatre with a tribute featuring actor Charles S. Dutton (a veteran of Wilson works, including Ma Rainey's Black Bottom), Jujamcyn Theatres creative director Jack Viertel, actress Lillias White and members of the original cast of Wilson's Seven Guitars.

Immediately following the program will be the unveiling of a new marquee (boasting Wilson's signature) outside the theatre, with remarks by Jujamyn president Rocco Landesman.

The theatre is located at 245 W. 52nd Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. Jersey Boys is the current tenant there.

The Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning Wilson (lauded for Fences and The Piano Lesson, among others) died Oct. 2 from complications due to liver cancer at the age of 60. The theatre re-naming plan was announced shortly after he went public with news of his terminal illness in August. Jujamcyn Theatres will produce a Broadway production of Radio Golf, his final known play, next season.

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Wilson's first play, Jitney, was produced in Pittsburgh, PA, at the Allegheny Repertory Theatre in 1982. The epic cycle (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. His most recent Broadway outing was Gem of the Ocean.

His plays have been produced at regional theatres across the country and all over the world, as well as on Broadway.

Radio Golf debuted at Yale Repertory Theatre and has also played at the Center Theatre Group's Mark Taper Forum. The work will also be staged by Seattle Repertory Theatre and Baltimore's Centerstage with plans for Chicago's Goodman Theatre, and a possible Boston run, in the works.

With Radio Golf, Wilson ended his 10-play cycle which chronicles the African American experience in the 20th century, decade by decade. The 1990s-set play involves real estate developers who look to tear down the home of recurring Wilson character Aunt Esther.

All of the aforementioned works have played on Broadway with the exception of Jitney — which enjoyed an Off-Broadway run at Second Stage Theatre then transferred to a commercial run at the Union Square Theatre — and Radio Golf.

All the Broadway productions received Tony Award nominations for Best Play with Fences taking home the prize. Wilson also garnered the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for that work and The Piano Lesson.

In spring 2003, Wilson made his professional stage debut in his one-man show, How I Learned What I Learned.

The Virginia Theatre was renamed in 1981 for Virginia M. Binger, the wife of former Jujamcyn president James Binger.

Built in 1925 by the Theatre Guild as the Guild Theatre to house its famed acting company (the Lunts, Edward G. Robinson, Claude Rains, etc.), the theatre was later known as the ANTA and then the Virginia.

Famous productions to play the house include Jelly's Last Jam, Carrie, City of Angels, A Man for All Seasons, The Owl and the Pussycat, Our Town with Henry Fonda, The Skin of Our Teeth with Mary Martin and Helen Hayes, Say Darling and J.B.

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