Phylicia Rashad, Leslie Uggams, Jesse L. Martin and More Take Part in August Wilson's American Century Cycle, Beginning Aug. 26
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, is presented and recorded Aug. 26-Sept. 28 at The Greene Space in Manhattan.
The first recording of all of Wilson's ten plays incorporates 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 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 Jo-Ann, John Earl Jelks, Roslyn Ruff, S. Epatha Merkerson, Wendell Pierce, Jesse L. Martin, Harry Lennix and Taraji P. Henson in her Wilson debut.
The plays are presented in the order in which they premiered, with the recordings shared with institutions around the U.S.
Dramatic readings of each play are 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, serves 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 George Morfogen, Tuck Milligan, Charles Weldon, Clarke Peters, Harvy Blanks, Ebony Jo-Ann, Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Lucas Caleb Rooney and Jonathan Majors, with original music by Grammy-nominated composer Bill Sims, Jr.
Directed by Kenny Leon and featuring actors Eugene Lee, Jesse L. Martin, Regina Taylor, Ray Anthony Thomas, Ruben Santiago-Hudson 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, Nile Bullock and Alexis Holt.
The Piano Lesson
Directed by Stephen McKinley Henderson, 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 and Tracie Thoms.
Directed by Stephen McKinley Henderson, and featuring Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Brenda Pressley, Wendell Pierce, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Lou Ferguson, Harry Lennix and Cassandra Freeman.
Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson and featuring Anthony Chisholm, Amari Cheatom, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Barry Shabaka Henley, Harvy Blanks, Ray Anthony Thomas and Joaquina Kalukango.
King Hedley II
Noon performance: Directed by Michele Shay and featuring Russell Hornsby, Leslie Uggams, Kevin Carroll, Stephen M. Henderson, Marsha Stephanie Blake and Arthur French.
7 PM performance: Directed by Marion McClinton and featuring Russell Hornsby, Leslie Uggams, Kevin Carroll, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Marsha Stephanie Blake and Arthur French.
Gem of the Ocean
Directed by Kenny Leon and featuring Eugene Lee, Phylicia Rashad, Danai Gurira, Raynor Scheine, Anthony Chisolm and Keith Randolph Smith.
Noon performance: Directed by Marion McClinton and featuring Rocky Carroll, John Earl Jelks, Sharon Washington, James A. Williams and Anthony Chisholm.
Directed by Michele Shay and featuring Rocky Carroll, Eisa Davis, John Earl Jelks, James A. Williams and Anthony Chisholm.
For more information and tickets, visit TheGreeneSpace.org.
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