Wright State Theatre opens 2014–15 season with August Wilson’s ‘Fences’

Wright State Theatre opens its 40th season with August Wilson’s landmark drama “Fences” in the Festival Playhouse Sept 18–28.

Wright State University Theatre will launch its 40th season with August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama “Fences” Sept. 18–28.

The play is directed by Sheila Ramsey and W. Stuart McDowell, Ph.D., chair and artistic director of the Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures.

Performances will take place in the  Creative Art Center’s Festival Playhouse on Sept. 18, 24 and 25 at 7 p.m.; Sept. 19, 20, 26 and 27 at 8 p.m.; and Sept. 21, 27 and 28 at 2 p.m.

“Fences” debuted on Broadway in 1987, winning both a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.

McDowell said that he and Ramsey saw “Fences” the year it opened Broadway with James Earl Jones and Courtney B. Vance.

“On the stage in New York it had a tremendous, immeasurable effect on my — and Sheila’s — understanding of what great theatre can do, and the depth of the story of this family in Pittsburgh in 1957 is truly profound,” McDowell said. “Sheila and I hope that some of this energy and truth will be conveyed in the Wright State Theatre production, which we’re dedicating to Ruby Dee, longtime supporter and collaborator in Wright State Theatre’s productions of ‘1913: The Great Dayton Flood.’”

Set in the 1950s, “Fences” explores the evolving African-American experience and examines race relations, among other themes. It is the sixth in Wilson’s 10-part “Pittsburgh Cycle.”

The play’s focus is Troy, a 53-year-old who struggles with providing for his family as a trash collector. Troy was once a great baseball player, but because the color barrier had not yet been broken in Major League Baseball, was unable to play professionally.

“Given the current racial climate in the country following the shooting of several young black men, I am proud of our Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures for presenting a play that has at its center an African-American family set in the pre-civil rights era,” said Kimberly Barrett, vice president for multicultural affairs and community engagement at Wright State. “It provides as excellent cultural bridge for understanding the enduring effects of racial discrimination by providing a glimpse into our not so distant past where discrimination was de rigueur.”

Ramsey’s previous productions at Wright State include “A Soldier’s Play,” “The Story,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson.”

McDowell, whose previous Wright State credits include “Phantom of the Opera,” “Showboat” and last season’s “Les Miserables,” is beginning his third decade as department chair with this production.

On the stage, the production features Law Dunford (Javert in “Les Miserables”) as Troy Maxson, Brandon Kinley (“Les Miserables”) as Jim Bono, Jasmine Easler (“1913: The Great Dayton Flood”) as Rose, Korey Smith as Lyons, Christian Henderson as Gabriel, Tyrell Reggins (“Les Miserables”) as Corey, James Robertson (“Swing”), Ocean Brown and E’Dray Caldwell as Raynell.

“Fences” also features a set designed by senior Ryan Sess (“The Wild Party”), lighting by Samantha Jelinek (“All In the Timing,” “The Magic Fire”), costumes by Mary Beth McLaughlin (“Miracle Worker,” “1913: The Great Dayton Flood”), properties by John Lavarnway and sound design by Emily Hutton.

The production is co-sponsored by Wright State’s Bolinga Black Cultural Resource Center.

The play includes adult language and situations, and may not be suitable for children under 12.

For tickets and theatre information, call the Box Office at (937) 775-2500 or visit Theatre Program website.

Wright State Theatre’s 40th season continues

Wright State Theatre’s 2014–15 season continues with Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Hot Mikado” Oct. 23–Nov. 9 in the Festival Theatre.

The season also includes: “Romeo and Juliet,” Nov. 14–23; “Pride and Prejudice,” Jan. 29–Feb. 8; “Peter Pan,” March 19–April 12; and “Sondheim on Sondheim,” April 17–26.

Details are available on the Theatre Program website.

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