International City Theatre announced Tuesday that in continuation of its 30th anniversary season, the award-winning non-profit will feature a production celebrating the 30th anniversary of a modern American classic: Fences by August Wilson.
Gregg Daniel, whose directing credits include Wedding Band: A Love Story in Black and White for the Antaeus Theatre Company and the New Jersey premiere of playwright Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop at Cape May Stage, directs Wilson’s drama for an August 21 opening at International City Theatre’s home at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center.
Two low-priced reviews will take place on August 19 and 20.
Set in 1957, Fences is Wilson’s sixth entry in his 10-play “Century Cycle,” a decade-by-decade exploration of the black experience in 20th century America.
Michael Shepperd, best known to L.A. audiences as co-artistic director of the multiple award-winning Celebration Theatre, stars in the story of Troy Maxson, a former Negro League home run king kept out of the big leagues by prejudice and is now a garbage collector with a bleak future, according to the announcement.
Two years following its 1985 premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre, Fences opened on Broadway where the show garnered the celebrated playwright his first Pulitzer Prize, alongside Drama Desk and Tony Awards for “Best Play.” A Tony Award for “Best Revival” was given to a 2010 production.
“Here in America whites have a particular view of blacks,” Wilson explained in an interview in the 1999 Winter Issue of The Paris Review. “I think my plays offer them a different way to look at black Americans.”
In Fences, Wilson said, the audience sees a garbage man—someone they wouldn't normally take time to notice, even though they see a garbage man every day. "By looking at Troy’s life, white people find out that the content of this black garbage man’s life is affected by the same things—love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty," said Wilson. "Recognizing that these things are as much a part of his life as theirs can affect how they think about and deal with black people in their lives.”
Wilson’s work as a playwright and poet centers on the struggles and identity of ordinary African Americans and the “deleterious effect of white American institutions on black American life,” while his work draws from his own experience.
Following Wilson’s cancer-caused death in 2005, the Virginia Theater on Broadway in New York City was renamed the August Wilson Theater and in 2006 the African American Cultural Center of Greater Pittsburgh was renamed the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.
International City Theatre notes in particular John Lahr’s words in The New Yorker, “No one except perhaps Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams has aimed so high and achieved so much in the American theater.”
Fences will run Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00PM and Sundays at 2:00PM, August 21 through September 13. Two preview performances take place on Wednesday, August 19 and Thursday, August 20 at 8:00PM. Tickets are $46 on Thursdays and Fridays, and $48 on Saturdays and Sundays, except opening night (August 21), for which tickets are $54 and include a post-performance reception with the actors, and previews which are $34.
International City Theatre has formed a community partnership with the African American community in Long Beach to raise funds for college scholarships and to bring students to the production. A Community Partnership package, which includes a pre-performance Gala dinner as well as a post-show reception with the actors on opening night, is $125; tables of ten are available for $1,200. Community Partnership chairs are listed as Dr. Minnie Douglas, Marva Lewis and Dr. Sharon Valear Robinson.
For more information about ICT and to purchase tickets, click here.