Wilson: Accolades Continue

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(Honors continue for August Wilson).

August Wilson admirers will get an ample serving of the late playwright’s body of work, in a series of plays.

Across the country, the recipient of the 1999 National Humanities Medal, by the President of the United States, will be hailed worldwide.  Attention is focused on the revival of Wilson’s Tony-Award winning play, “Fences.�  This time the cast include Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett and A-list actor Laurence Fishburne.

Wilson’s enthusiasts are hopeful this star-studded production will eventually make its way to New York. Then in London, Connecticut at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, Wilson alumnus, actor Charles Dutton, performed before a packed house during a one-night-90-minute show titled, “A Special Tribute to August.�

In this riveting salute, Dutton, who received Tony nominations for his performances in Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom� and “The Piano Lesson,� interweaves scenes from several of the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner’s plays, which covers the dynamics of Black life.

Of course, in this montage of Wilson’s heralded plays, Dutton has been applauded as showcasing his deft touch and expansive theatrical vision with brilliantly awesome results. This work-in-progress comes close to resembling a one-man show, especially with a poignantly moving performance by S. Epatha Merkerson. A highly anticipated salute to Wilson is the Signature Theatre Company’s 15th anniversary celebration named, “The August Wilson Series.�

The three-play Wilson tribute is deemed “The first New York Exploration of the late playwright’s significant body of work.� The first play in the three-part series is “Seven Guitars.�  Like most of Wilson’s plays, “Seven Guitars,� is set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.  However, “Seven Guitars� places you in 1948.  Here, an ambitious blues musician returns home to retrieve his lover and assets.  Another man desires an heir to continue his legacy and three-single women confront diminishing dreams and deceit.  Cases of near hopelessness are recorded like seven musical instruments.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who performed brilliantly in Wilson’s last Broadway play, "Gem of the Ocean," directs the Signature Theatre Company's production of "Seven Guitars." In an interview, the 2005 Humanitas Prize winner for his screenplay, "Lackawanna Blues" which he starred opposite Academy Award winner Halle Berry, Santiago-Hudson, indicated that he credits Wilson for opening a wide spectrum of opportunities for him.

Signature's production of "Seven Guitars" has a cast that includes:  Kevin Carroll, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Brenda Pressley, Lance Reddick, Roslynn Ruff and Charles Weldon. Richard Hoover is the scenic designer; Karen Perry is the costume designer.  Jan Cox is the light designer and Darron L. West is the sound designer.  The fight director is Rick Sordelet. This production has original music by blues legend Bill Sims.

"Seven Guitars" plays until October 15, 2006 at Signature Theatre Company's Peter Norton Space (555 West 42nd Street, Manhattan). A special $15 ticket price (regularly $55) runs for the first eight weeks of the three-play series. The second play in the series is "Two Trains Running."  Lou Bellamy will direct this play, which will be performed from November 7 through December 31.

The final play in the series is "King Hedley II, which is scheduled to open in February 2007. On Saturday, September 9, Signature Theatre Company presented the "River To River" festival, a musical and word tribute recognizing the influence of the blues on Wilson's plays.

"As a woman of color, I am proud of every actor who will participate in the festival, from stage hands to directors," said Caribbean actress Staxx Cordero, who will be featured in Veona Thomas' play, "Diva and the Rapper" this fall in New Jersey. "Festivals shed a positive light on our culture and can bring our talent and stories to a higher plateau," Cordero added.

For additional information on Signature's tribute to August Wilson, call (212) 244-PLAY (7529).

To subscribe to New York’s favorite Pan-African weekly investigative newspaper please click on “subscribe� on the homepage or call (212) 481-7745. For advertisements or to send us a news tip contact miltonallimadi@hotmail.com “Speaking Truth To Empower,� is our motto.

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