(RED BANK, NJ) -- Marking the halfway point in its commitment to present all 10 plays of August Wilson’s American Century Cycle, Two River Theater announces the complete cast and creative team for its production of Wilson’s “exhilarating” (The New York Times) and incendiary drama King Hedley II, directed by Brandon J. Dirden. For the first time, the theater will be presenting one of Wilson’s plays in its intimate 110-seat Marion Huber Theater, with performances beginning on November 10 and continuing for an extended five-week run through Sunday, December 16.
August Wilson is the 10th most produced playwright of the current season in the United States, according to American Theater magazine. Two River’s staging of King Hedley II is currently the only production of this rarely seen play happening anywhere in the world.
The year is 1985 and Pittsburgh’s Hill District has been ravaged by violence, unemployment, and urban blight. King Hedley II returns to his home after a seven-year prison term looking to re-build his life, save some money, and start a family. However, both he and those around him quickly find that in 1980s America, the rules have changed.
Brandon J. Dirden—the award-winning actor/director who has appeared in five Two River productions, including, most recently, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and A Raisin in the Sun—directs this sequel to Seven Guitars, which was produced under his direction at Two River in 2015. King Hedley II picks up the stories of Ruby and Canewell (known here as Stool Pigeon) from the earlier drama, which is set in the 1940s.
The cast of King Hedley II includes Brittany Bellizeare (Tonya), Harvy Blanks (Elmore), Brian D. Coats (Stool Pigeon), Elain Graham (Ruby), Charlie Hudson III (Mister), and Blake Morris (King Hedley II).
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The creative team includes scenic designer Michael Carnahan, costume designer Karen Perry, lighting designer Kathy A. Perkins, sound designer Kay Richardson, and wigs designer Erin Hicks. The fight direction is by UnkleDave’s Fight-House, the casting is by Heidi Griffiths & Kate Murray, and the stage manager is Laura Wilson.
Says Artistic Director John Dias, “Over the past decade, Two River Theater has made a commitment to producing plays that deal with issues of race, social justice, and our shared history. These include four plays from August Wilson’s majestic American Century Cycle: Jitney, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. With each production, the artists who work here—and the audiences who are coming here to see these plays—are engaged in emotional and complex conversations about race. We believe that, as a theater, we have a unique opportunity to contribute to this evolving civic discourse.”
Ticket prices range from $40 to $80, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets are available for every performance; $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available from tworivertheater.org or 732.345.1400.
Inside Two River
Inside Two River is a series of events specially curated for each Two River Theater production. For more information or to reserve a free spot, patrons should visit tworivertheater.org or call 732.345.1400.
Open Rehearsal: Thursday, November 1 at 7pm in the Rechnitz Theater
Audiences are invited into the rehearsal process as director Brandon J. Dirden and company members of King Hedley II discuss August Wilson and explore his work. The rehearsal will include a short Q&A session, and will be followed by light refreshments in the lobby.
Book Club: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Monday, November 26 at 6:30pm in the Victoria Mastrobuono Library
Ta-Nehisi Coates pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son in this Pulitzer Prize finalist and #1 New York Times bestseller from 2015. The journalist, thinker, and writer offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crises all the while trying to convey and interrogate what it is like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it. Coates works to untangle these difficult questions by writing a letter to his adolescent son. In connection with King Hedley II, Literary Manager Taylor Barfield will discuss how a broader socio-political history can be explored through the lens of familial bonds and personal stories.
First Monday Masters
First Monday Masters is series of master classes led by artists affiliated with Two River Theater’s recent productions and current season. Classes take place in locations throughout the Two River Theater arts complex, on Monday evenings from 6pm-8pm. To reserve a spot, patrons should visit tworivertheater.org or call 732.345.1400.
November 5: Costume Design with Karen Perry
For adults and high school students, limited to 16 participants, 6-8:00pm, $40 per person
King Hedley II costume designer Karen Perry previously designed August Wilson’s Jitney, Two Trains Running and Seven Guitars at Two River Theater, as well as Lives of Reason, Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine, Guadalupe in the Guest Room, Third and Trouble in Mind. This season, she will also design Oo-Bla-Dee. She has also designed costumes for Encores!, Dallas Theater Center, Second Stage, Signature Theatre, Goodman, and The Public Theater, among others. Karen will walk the class through the costume design process from the page to the stage by discussing her work on new musicals and classic plays. This workshop will take place in Two River Theater’s Costume Shop.
Before Play and Lobby Display
Audiences will learn about August Wilson and King Hedley II in Two River’s Before Play lecture series, which takes place 45 minutes prior to every performance, and Lobby Display.
Discussions with the cast and a member of Two River’s Artistic staff will take place on Wednesday, November 21 at 1pm; Sunday, November 25 at 3pm; and Wednesday, November 28 at 7pm.
Working with Google, Two River has created and launched a virtual tour of its facility, which lives on Google Maps and tworivertheater.org. This virtual tour provides an additional level of support and benefit for patrons who use wheelchairs or require other assistance by allowing them to virtually come through the theater’s front doors and view the space in detail in advance of their visit.
An audio-described performance is scheduled for Wednesday, December 5 at 1pm, and an open-captioned performance is scheduled for Saturday, December 8 at 3pm. Tickets are available at a discounted rate of $25 for patrons using these services. To reserve wheelchair-accessible seating or tickets to a performance listed above, patrons should call 732.345.1400 or e-mail email@example.com.
Two River Theater is located at 21 Bridge Avenue in Red Bank, New Jersey.