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Dunbar Repertory Company to produce August Wilson's "Jitney" at Middletown Arts Center

originally published: 05/11/2023

Dunbar Repertory Company to produce August Wilson

(MIDDLETOWN, NJ) -- The Middletown Arts Center is pleased to present August Wilson’s Jitney, produced by the Dunbar Repertory Company and directed by Darrell Lawrence Willis, Sr., over two weekends, June 2-4 and 9-11. Set in the early 1970s, this richly textured play follows a group of men trying to eke out a living by driving unlicensed cabs, or jitneys, in the black neighborhood of Pittsburgh’s Hill District. Jitney is the seventh in the Pulitzer-prize-winning playwright’s ten-play cycle (collectively called The American Century Cycle or The Pittsburgh Cycle) on the black experience in twentieth-century America.

Set in an unofficial taxi station threatened with demolition in 1977, Jitney explores the lives and relationships of drivers, highlighting conflicts between generations and different concepts of legacy and identity. When the city of Pittsburgh threatens to board up the gypsy cab business and the boss’ son returns from prison, tempers flare, potent secrets are revealed and the fragile threads binding these people together may come undone at last. A thoroughly revised version of a play Wilson first wrote in 1979, Jitney was produced in New York for the first time in spring 2000, winning rave reviews and the accolade of the New York Drama Critics Circle as the best play of the year.

The cast includes Collin Roach (Youngblood), Jo Leo Carney Waterton (Turnbo), Larry Calhoun (Fielding), Bellamy Shivers (Doub), Joseph Taylor (Shealy), Kirk Lambert (Philmore), Arthur Gregory Pugh (Becker), Damien S. Berger (Booster) and Dani Richards (Rena). The crew includes Stephanie Schoppe (Production Stage Manager) and Mark Antonio Henderson (Associate Artistic Director).

Dunbar Repertory Company to produce August Wilson

 Left to Right: Collin Roach (Youngblood) and Dani Richards (Rena). Photo by Fawn Nocera Photography

Performances take place Friday, June 2 at 8:00pm; Saturday, June 3 at 3:00pm & 8:0pm; Sunday, June 4 at 4:00pm; Friday, June 9 at 8:00pm; Saturday, June 10 at 3:00pm & 8:00pm; and Sunday, June 11 at 4:00pm. Ticket prices are $20 and are general admission. Purchase tickets online at middletownarts.org or call the MAC Box Office at 732.706.4110. The Middletown Arts Center is located at 36 Church Street in Middletown, NJ (next to the Middletown train station). Free parking is available onsite with additional free parking available in station metered lot on weekday evenings after 6:00pm and on weekends.

“No one except perhaps Eugene O’Neill or Tennessee Williams has aimed so high and achieved so much in the American theater.” - John Lahr, The New Yorker



 
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August Wilson (1945 – 2005) was a Pulitzer-prize-winning playwright known for chronicling the experiences of Black Americans during the 20th century. First, through poetry and then through plays, Wilson captured the character and experiences of the African American community, particularly the community of his native Pittsburgh. He is best known for a series of ten plays collectively called The American Century Cycle or The Pittsburgh Cycle which include, Jitney (1982), Fences (1984), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1984), Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1986), The Piano Lesson (1987) and King Hedley II (1999). Wilson received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Fences and The Piano Lesson, and earned nine Tony Award nominations, winning Best Play for 1987 for Fences. All of his plays have received the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play.

In 2006, Wilson was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the recipient of Rockefeller and Guggenheim Fellowships, the Whiting Writers Award, the 1999 National Humanities Medal awarded by the President and numerous honorary degrees.

One of contemporary theater’s most distinguished and eloquent voices, August Wilson wrote not about historical events or the pathologies of the black community, but, as he said, about “the unique particulars of black culture…I wanted to place this culture onstage in all its richness and fullness and to demonstrate its ability to sustain us…through profound moments in our history in which the larger society has thought less of us than we have thought of ourselves.”

Dunbar Repertory Company to produce August Wilson

Left to Right: Kirk Lambert (Philmore), Darrell Lawrence Willis, Sr. (Producing Artistic Director), Bellamy Shivers (Doub), Dani Richards (Rena), Collin Roach (Youngblood), Arthur Gregory Pugh (Becker), Larry Calhoun (Fielding), Damien S. Berger (Booster), Joseph Taylor (Shealy). Photo by Fawn Nocera Photography

Known to residents of Central New Jersey as “Monmouth County’s African American Theater Company”, Dunbar Repertory Company is committed to its mission of perpetuating an appreciation of cultural diversity and celebrating African American culture through LIVE literary readings, main stage theatrical productions, education programs and services. 

The Middletown Arts Center (MAC) is an award-winning, state-of-the-art facility in Middletown, New Jersey that offers performances, exhibits, classes, demonstrations and camps centering on the arts. Its convenient location across from the Middletown train station on Church Street enables easy access and its expanded MAC Annex Education Building is minutes away next to the Middletown Reformed Church. The MAC is operated by a non-profit 501c3, the Middletown Township Cultural and Arts Council which is dedicated to bringing quality arts programming and events to Middletown and surrounding communities.

The mission of the Middletown Township Cultural and Arts Council is to celebrate and promote the arts while enriching the community through arts programming, education, entertainment and cultural connection for individuals of all ages and abilities.



 
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