Phylicia Rashad, Leslie Uggams, Jesse L. Martin and More Will Take Part in August Wilson's American Century Cycle
By Michael Gioia
The ten-play American Century Cycle by late Tony Award winner August Wilson, which captures 100 years of African American life decade by decade during the 20th century, will be presented and recorded Aug. 26-Sept. 28 at The Greene Space in Manhattan.
The first recording of all of Wilson's ten plays will incorporate longtime Wilson collaborators and interpreters, including the project's artistic director, Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and associate director, Tony Award nominee Stephen McKinley Henderson.
Directors include Tony Award nominee Kenny Leon, Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad, Michele Shay and Marion McClinton, and the readings will feature many actors reprising the roles they performed on stage, including Tony Award winner Leslie Uggams, Drama Desk and Obie Award winner Anthony Chisholm, Obie Award winner Brandon Dirden, Russell Hornsby, Emmy Award winner Keith David, Ebony Joann, John Earl Jelks, Roslyn Ruff, S. Epatha Merkerson, Wendell Pierce, Jesse L. Martin and Taraji P. Henson in her Wilson debut.
The plays will be presented in the order in which they premiered, with the recordings shared with institutions around the U.S.
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.
Wilson's ten-play cycle, according to Greene Space, "chronicles the African American experience in the 20th century with each play set in a different decade. The cycle begins in the early 1900s, when wounds from slavery and the Civil War were still fresh, and closes in the 1990s, when even a large and increasingly influential black middle class would not escape persistent racial tensions. Two of the plays, Fences and The Piano Lesson, were recognized with Pulitzer Prizes."
The August Wilson Estate 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 of the plays.
Indira Etwaroo, executive producer of The Greene Space, will serve as executive producer of the project.
A list of the plays, dates and cast lists follows:
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson and featuring David Margulies, Tuck Milligan, Charles Weldon, Clarke Peters, Harvy Blanks, Ebony Jo-Ann, Joniece Abbott-Pratt and Jonathan Majors.
Directed by Kenny Leon and featuring actors Eugene Lee, Jesse L. Martin, Ray Anthony Thomas and Jonathan Majors.
Joe Turner's Come and Gone
Directed by Phylicia Rashad and featuring Keith David, Taraji P. Henson, S. Epatha Merkerson, Roger Robinson, Raynor Scheine, Jason Dirden, John Douglas Thompson, January LaVoy, Niles Martells and Alexis Holt.
The Piano Lesson
Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and featuring Brandon J. Dirden, Roslyn Ruff, James A. Williams, Jason Dirden, Alexis Holt, Eric Lenox Abrams, Chuck Cooper and Mandi Masden.
Two Trains Running
Directed by Michele Shay and featuring actors Ron Cephas Jones, James A. Williams, Owiso Odera, Leon Addison Brown and Harvy Blanks.
Directed by Stephen McKinley Henderson, and featuring actors Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Brenda Pressley, Wendell Pierce, Lou Ferguson, Harry Lennix and Cassandra Freeman.
Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson and featuring actors Anthony Chisholm, Amari Cheatom, Stephen M. Henderson, Barry Shabaka Henley, Harvy Blanks and Joaquina Kalukango.
King Hedley II
Directed by Marion McClinton and featuring actors Russell Hornsby, Leslie Uggams, Kevin Carroll, Stephen M. Henderson, Marsha Stephanie Blake and Arthur French.
Gem of the Ocean
Directed by Kenny Leon and featuring Eugene Lee, Stephen Tyrone Williams, Phylicia Rashad, Danai Gurira, Raynor Scheine, Anthony Chisolm and Keith Randolph Smith.
Directed by Michele Shay and featuring Rocky Carroll, John Earl Jelks, Sharon Washington, James A. Williams and Anthony Chisholm.
For more information and tickets, visit TheGreeneSpace.org.
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