Ten Plays of August Wilson's American Century Cycle Will Be Presented and Recorded at NYC's The Greene Space

By Andrew Gans
14 Nov 2012

Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Ruben Santiago-Hudson

The August Wilson Estate has granted The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space — the events space of New York Public Radio, which also operates WNYC and WQXR — the rights to record all ten plays in August Wilson’s American Century Cycle.

Dramatic readings of each play will be presented in front of a live studio audience and recorded for the NYPR archives. The recording sessions will also be available as live video webcasts on NYPR websites, and the audio recordings will be preserved in NYPR’s archives for future research and educational purposes.

Indira Etwaroo, executive producer of The Greene Space, will serve as executive producer of the project. Tony Award-winning actor and director Ruben Santiago-Hudson has been tapped as the artistic director.

The project will take place in 2013. Directors, cast and dates will be announced at a later time.



Wilson’s American Century Cycle, according to press notes, "consists of 10 plays portraying the 20th century African American experience, from the early 1900’s, when wounds from slavery and the Civil War were still fresh, to the 1990’s, when even a large and increasingly influential black middle class could not escape persistent racial tensions."

The plays follow:

1900s Gem of the Ocean - 1839 Wylie Avenue, 1904
1910s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone - a boardinghouse, 1911
1920s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – a band room and studio in Chicago, Illinois, 1927
1930s The Piano Lesson – a home with an heirloom upright piano, 1936
1940s Seven Guitars – the backyard of a brick home with a cellar and window fronting the yard, 1948
1950s Fences – an urban neighborhood in an industrial city, 1957
1960s Two Trains Running – a restaurant across from a funeral home and a meat market, 1969
1970s Jitney – a neighborhood gypsy taxicab station, 1977
1980s King Hedley II – the backyard of two tenement homes, 1985
1990s Radio Golf – a real estate office, 1997

"The August Wilson Estate is thrilled to partner with The Greene Space on this historical undertaking,” said Constanza Romero, Wilson’s widow and the executor of the August Wilson Estate, in a statement. “Back in 1985, the cast recording of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom received a Grammy Award. This was a meaningful moment for August, and I know he would be deeply moved that now his entire cycle is being recorded. When Indira approached me with this idea, it was truly a meeting of the minds. This is something I have been hoping for—a chance to transfer a theatrical experience which is usually ephemeral, to a medium that will preserve it for history. And this will happen with August's American Century Cycle in the hands of many talented theatre artists who knew and worked with him. I think we all see this as a unique opportunity to keep his legacy alive-and-well for generations to come.”

“August Wilson created an unparalleled and indelible canon of work that speaks to the beauty and struggle of the African American journey and the universal relevance of these stories,” added Etwaroo. “I couldn’t be more honored for The Greene Space to be the first organization entrusted with the rights to record Wilson's American Century Cycle, which masterfully and seamlessly translate to audio works. Constanza Romero’s unwavering commitment to the legacy of her late-husband has created a pathway for projects, such as this. And Ruben’s own career-long relationship with Wilson and his work, as well as our partnership on the Zora Neale Huston project, made him the natural choice to serve as Artistic Director on this historic endeavor.”