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For 1st Time Ever, August Wilson Estate Grants Rights to Record American Century Cycle Plays

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by Tambay A. Obenson
November 14, 2012 1:38 PM
5 Comments
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This is good; any attempts to introduce August Wilson's work to audiences is great; it all helps keep his work and memory alive; and all under Ruben Santiago-Hudson's watch in this case. He's serving as Artistic Director of the venture.

All the details follow in the press release below:

The August Wilson Estate Grants Rights to Record All 10-Plays of The American Century Cycle for the First Time Ever to The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WNYC and WQXR

The Greene Space to Present all Ten Plays in The American Century Cycle as Dramatic Readings in 2013

Tony Award-winning actor and longtime Wilson collaborator Ruben Santiago-Hudson to Serve as Artistic Director

(New York, NY – October 26, 2012) The August Wilson Estate today announced that for the first time ever, it is granting an organization the rights to record Wilson’s American Century Cycle.

The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, the events space of New York Public Radio, which also operates WNYC and WQXR, will present live dramatic readings of each play in front a live studio audience and record them for the NYPR archives. The recording sessions will also be available as live video web casts on NYPR websites and those of select organizations with a close affinity with August Wilson’s work. The audio recordings will be preserved in NYPR’s archives for future research and educational purposes.

Indira Etwaroo, Executive Producer of The Greene Space, will serve as Executive Producer of the project. Tony Award-winning actor and director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who collaborated with The Greene Space this year on the American radio drama adaptation premiere of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, has been tapped as the Artistic Director.

The project will take place in 2013. Directors, cast, and dates will be announced at a later time.

Wilson’s American Century Cycle consists of 10 plays portraying the 20th century African American experience, from the early 1900’s, when wounds from slavery and the Civil War were still fresh, to the 1990’s, when even a large and increasingly influential black middle class could not escape persistent racial tensions.

The plays are as follows:

1900s Gem of the Ocean - 1839 Wylie Avenue, 1904

1910s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone - a boardinghouse, 1911

1920s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – a band room and studio in Chicago, Illinois, 1927

1930s The Piano Lesson – a home with an heirloom upright piano, 1936

1940s Seven Guitars – the backyard of a brick home with a cellar and window fronting the yard, 1948

1950s Fences – an urban neighborhood in an industrial city, 1957

1960s Two Trains Running – a restaurant across from a funeral home and a meat market, 1969

1970s Jitney – a neighborhood gypsy taxicab station, 1977

1980s King Hedley II – the backyard of two tenement homes, 1985

1990s Radio Golf – a real estate office, 1997

"The August Wilson Estate is thrilled to partner with The Greene Space on this historical undertaking,” said CONSTANZA ROMERO, Wilson’s widow and the executor of the August Wilson Estate. “Back in 1985, the cast recording of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom received a Grammy Award. This was a meaningful moment for August, and I know he would be deeply moved that now his entire cycle is being recorded. When Indira approached me with this idea, it was truly a meeting of the minds. This is something I have been hoping for—a chance to transfer a theatrical experience which is usually ephemeral, to a medium that will preserve it for history. And this will happen with August's American Century Cycle in the hands of many talented theatre artists who knew and worked with him. I think we all see this as a unique opportunity to keep his legacy alive-and-well for generations to come.”

“August Wilson created an unparalleled and indelible canon of work that speaks to the beauty and struggle of the African American journey and the universal relevance of these stories,” said ETWAROO. “I couldn’t be more honored for The Greene Space to be the first organization entrusted with the rights to record Wilson's American Century Cycle, which masterfully and seamlessly translate to audio works. Constanza Romero’s unwavering commitment to the legacy of her late-husband has created a pathway for projects, such as this. And Ruben’s own career-long relationship with Wilson and his work, as well as our partnership on the Zora Neale Huston project, made him the natural choice to serve as Artistic Director on this historic endeavor.”

“’You need to be directing these plays,’ is what August told me, watching me watch the creative process unfold from the wings,” said SANTIAGO-HUDSON. “The opportunity to convene several generations of what many call 'Wilsonian Soldiers,' but I simply call some of the finest actors in The Theater today, to create a blueprint, a guide for those who come after us to follow is significant. I am humbled with the opportunity to serve on this project, particularly excited that the technology of the 21st Century will help capture August’s American Century Cycle set in the 20th Century for generations

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5 Comments

  • Gurry | November 15, 2012 1:08 PMReply

    Fantastic. I am eagerly anticipating being a consumer of this. I hope the attention this project is getting doesn't mean it is going to be dumbed-down or sanitized for a mainstream audience.

    Please, to whomever is producing this, I beg you do not contact Tyler Perry about acting or directing anywhere near this. If he is willing to cough up some money, you should take that, and thank him for it. Although, if Karma is a real thing, TP actually owes every single Black person in America approx. $2374.65 for the pain and suffering he has caused the Race over all these years.

  • TOFU CHITLINS | November 20, 2012 10:30 AM

    Why must we constantly fuel the fire of distain for Mr. Perry every time there is a post about theater on this blog? Why must his name even come up? Why must we taint every post with execrable hate for Mr. Perry? This post is about Mr. August Wilson.

    I am a theater practitioner. I've worked with Mr. Wilson personally. His love for black people and the complexities of our ethos is laden truthfully in his legacy of work. I can't speak for Mr. Wilson or for his estate but I can say, having worked with him, he never treated anyone differently because of the choices they made or the path that they took to get where they were.

    There are trained actors and directors who study Mr. Wilson's work and who are a part of his creative team that typically work on all of his plays.

    To suggest, even in jest, to take Mr. Perry's money but not to allow him to be a part of the production is like suggesting that Bart Sher direct another production of Mr. Wilson's work. It just wouldn't work. When one becomes a financial backer in any capacity, the receiver of said funds becomes beholden to that contribution and the stipulations of said funds.

    Just a thought, what makes you think that Mr. Perry isn't well aware of Mr. Wilson's work? What makes you think that Mr. Perry hasn't supported Mr. Wilson in the past?

    Bringing up Mr. Perry in this thread is unnecessarily cruel. Theater already comes with connotation of "high-brow elitism" the last thing we need is to divide ourselves even further. To Mr. Perry's credit, he broke the proverbial 4th wall and gave voice to the voiceless in many underserved and underrepresented communities where the "great white way" didn't see them or didn't accept their potential buying power.

    While you hate on Mr. Perry, consider what he did to even get audience members in those seats. He made it acceptable to attend theater in black communities. Now, these same communities charter buses to New York to see Broadway shows. He has created an appreciation for an art form that is taken for granted or cast aside because of the lack of accessibility. People like Mr. Perry, are keeping it relevant. Even if it's not the way you think it should be done.

    I'm not a "Perry lover" if that's what you think, but I get so tired of this "debate" about what's considered legitimate theater. You think that work on Broadway is legitimate because it's on Broadway? I work in several different theatrical communities; from schools to Lort theaters. Just because there is a Broadway tag on something doesn't make it legitimate. Just because someone's name is attached to it doesn't it make it better than what I've seen in small churches on the south side of Chicago.

    Although your post may have been written with a tinge of humor, it reads more as a "hater". And at the base of what Mr. Wilson or Mr. Perry has done for our community is love. Love for their people and love for storytelling.

  • ALM | November 14, 2012 7:04 PMReply

    This is wonderful. It would be great if they could tape the recordings in different cities across the country. That way a variety of audiences will get to view the play live.

  • Yalanda Lattimore, DryerBuzz.com | November 14, 2012 1:43 PMReply

    you had me at "under Ruben Santiago-Hudson's watch"

  • Jug | November 14, 2012 1:48 PM

    Yalanda, I'm right with you!

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