Kenny Leon Will Direct Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in Broadway's Fences

By Kenneth Jones
05 Jan 2010

Viola Davis
Viola Davis

Two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington will star in the first Broadway revival of August Wilson's Fences, the 1987 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning family drama. Oscar nominee and Tony winner Viola Davis will co-star.

Producers also confirmed on Jan. 5 that Kenny Leon (Broadway's Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean, A Raisin in the Sun) will direct the play about a Pittsburgh trash collector's tense relationship with his star athlete son. Additional casting will be announced. This is the first official announcement of the project, although plans for the Washington vehicle had been reported elsewhere in fall 2009. At one point, Suzan-Lori Parks was mentioned as director.

Opening at the Cort Theatre will be April 26, after previews that start April 14. This is a limited 13-week engagement.

According to production notes, "Fences is one of the ten plays in August Wilson's sweeping Pittsburgh Cycle, focusing on the 20th century African-American experience. Fences takes place over eight years from 1957 to 1965."



Denzel Washington stars as Troy Maxson, "a Pittsburgh sanitation worker who once dreamed of a baseball career, but was too old when the major leagues finally admitted black players. As he faces off against the racial barrier at work and his own disappointments, Troy also grapples with his son, Cory, over the teenager’s hope for a football scholarship and with his wife, Rose (Viola Davis), who confronts Troy over a child he has fathered with another woman."

Fences will be produced by Carole Shorenstein Hays (who produced the original Broadway production) and Scott Rudin.

Fences originally starred James Earl Jones as Troy. The original Broadway production won four Tony Awards including Best Play, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, three Drama Desk Awards, including Best Play and the NY Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play.

Washington returns to Broadway for the first time since starring in Julius Caesar (2005). He made his Broadway debut in Checkmates (1988). Other theatre credits include Richard III, The Mighty Gents, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, When the Chickens Come Home to Roost and an Obie Award for A Soldier's Play. He is a two-time Academy Award winner for his performances in "Training Day" and "Glory" and received Oscar nominations for his performances in "The Hurricane," "Malcolm X" and "Cry Freedom."

Davis won Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for her performance in August Wilson's King Hedley II. She was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, SAG and Critics Choice Awards and won the National Board of Review Award for Best Breakthrough Performance for "Doubt." She also appeared in the Broadway production of August Wilson's Seven Guitars (Tony, Drama Desk nominations, Outer Critics Circle, Theatre World Awards). Off-Broadway credits include Intimate Apparel (Drama Desk, Drama League, Obie, Audelco Awards), Everybody's Ruby (Obie, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle nomination for Featured Actress), Pericles and As You Like It.

 

Denzel Washington

The late Wilson's plays include 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. He won Pulitzer Prizes for Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990), a Tony Award for Fences, Great Britain's Olivier Award for Jitney, as well as eight New York Drama Critics Circle Awards.

Drama Desk nominee Leon's Off-Broadway and regional resume includes Emergence-See featuring Daniel Beaty, Blues for an Alabama Sky and From the Mississippi Delta (Huntington Theatre), and productions at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, San Jose Rep, Goodman Theatre, Hartford Stage, CenterStage, Public Theater, Center Theatre Group, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Dallas Theater Center, Georgia Shakespeare Festival, Arena Stage and the Theatre of the Stars. Leon is founding artistic director of True Colors Theatre Company, dedicated to diversity and the preservation of African-American classics, and served as artistic director of the Alliance Theatre for more than a decade, where he produced ten world premieres, including Elton John's Aida and Debbie Allen's Soul Possessed. Leon served as artistic director for the Kennedy Center's 2008 staging of all ten plays in August Wilson's Century Cycle. Other recent credits include the world premiere of Toni Morrison's opera Margaret Garner and the TV film adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. Leon is a graduate and honorary Ph.D. of Clark Atlanta.

Additional and production team for Fences will be announced soon.