(CINCINNATI) — JITNEY, the first script that August Wilson wrote for what would become his trailblazing American Century Cycle of 10 plays, will run in the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s Robert S. Marx Theatre Oct. 15 through Nov. 12. JITNEY beautifully explores Wilson’s recurring themes of love, honor, duty and betrayal as it follows a group of men who operate an unlicensed car service in 1970s Pittsburgh.
As they hustle to survive, the men are forced to confront the destruction of their community when the city threatens to close their station and board up the block in the name of urban renewal. Winner of the Drama Critics’ Circle Award and Olivier Award for best play, JITNEY showcases Wilson’s unequaled talent for celebrating the voices of people who might otherwise be left unheard and of capturing the nobility in everyday struggles of life.
“With all of August Wilson’s plays I’m finding that, as with Shakespeare, whatever is happening in the world in terms of politics and social shifts, the plays are so comprehensive that they’re able to reveal modern-day relevancy,” says Playhouse Associate Artist Timothy Douglas, who has vast experience with the work of Wilson, including directing JITNEY three previous times and helming the world premiere of Wilson’s Radio Golf. “At once, August Wilson’s plays are very specific to the black American experience in the 20th century. But equally they are often described as being universal because they are so human at the core.”
In JITNEY, Wilson creates a cast of unforgettable characters — from Becker, the well-respected boss of the gypsy cab station, to drivers Turnbo, Youngblood, Fielding and Doub, who represent several generations of this tight-knit neighborhood. The story also pivots around a momentous day: the homecoming of Becker’s son Booster, who has recently been released from prison. His arrival is not welcomed by his father, who has never forgiven his son for the actions that resulted in his incarceration or the ripple effect on their family.
In some ways JITNEY continues a conversation about the intertwined subjects of gentrification and disenfranchisement that was started with Clybourne Park and Buzzer, previous Playhouse productions directed by Douglas. “What August Wilson and JITNEY do is present a much wider perspective and horizon about the lives of black men in America,” Douglas says. “Because of its brilliance and relevance, the play relates directly to what’s happening across the country and specifically in Cincinnati in terms of the shifting black culture and white culture’s perceptions about black culture. It spreads a much wider canvas and paints a lot more intricacies that at once are specific to the culture but also universal.”
A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner (for Fences and The Piano Lesson), August Wilson is frequently mentioned in the same breath as William Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill as among the most significant and accomplished dramatists of all time. JITNEY premiered in 1982 at Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Repertory Theatre before being expanded and remounted at Pittsburgh Public Theatre in 1996. It’s the only Century Cycle play never to reach Broadway, an oversight that will be corrected this winter with a production at Manhattan Theatre Club.
Douglas has assembled what he calls an “outrageously gifted” cast of other Wilson veterans. All of them have worked with Douglas before, and many have appeared in his previous productions of JITNEY, though in different roles.
The cast of JITNEY includes Stori Ayers (Rena), Doug Brown (Fielding), Michael Kevin Darnall (Youngblood), Kenneth Early (Philmore), Dion Graham (Turnbo), Jefferson A. Russell (Shealy), Shane Taylor (Booster), Raymond Anthony Thomas (Becker) and Michael Anthony Williams (Doub).
In addition to Douglas, the creative team features Tony Cisek (set designer), Tracy Dorman (costume designer), Andrew Cissna (lighting designer) and Vincent Olivieri (sound designer). Brooke Redler is the stage manager, and Jenifer Morrow and Andrea L. Shell are the second stage managers.
JITNEY is sponsored by Sallie and Randolph Wadsworth and Moe and Jack Rouse. The artist sponsors for the role of Becker are Betsy and Paul Sittenfeld; artist sponsors for the role of Youngblood are Rosemary and Mark Schlachter. This production honors the support of David C. Herriman.
Tickets for JITNEY start at $35. Prices are subject to change, and patrons are encouraged to buy early for the best seats at the best prices. The show is appropriate for adult and older teenage audiences.
Tickets to 7 p.m. Sunday College Night performances are priced at just $10 for college students with a valid school ID. Student tickets are just $15 on the day of the show for all other performances.
Discounted ticket prices for teens and students are always available for $30.
Previews for JITNEY are at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15; 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18; and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19. The official opening night is Thursday, Oct. 20, at 7:30 p.m.
Performances take place at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays.
The Playhouse will celebrate August Wilson with a special night dedicated to his work at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17. Douglas will discuss Wilson’s legacy and his own extensive experience with Wilson’s American Century Cycle while local actors perform monologues from several of Wilson’s plays. The event will be held at Walnut Hills High School’s Black Box Theatre. It’s free and open to the public, but reservations are required and may be made by calling the Playhouse Box Office at 513-421-3888.
Free Meet the Artists programs that allow audiences to interact with the cast and others associated with JITNEY will be held after the following performances: 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 26; 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6; and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10.
JITNEY will be audio described for those with visual impairments at 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, and signed for persons with hearing impairments at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6. The Playhouse is fully accessible. Audio enhancement receivers, large print programs and complete wheelchair access are available.
Tickets to JITNEY are on sale now. For more information, call the Playhouse Box Office at 513-421-3888 (toll-free in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana at 800-582-3208) or visit www.cincyplay.com. Call 513-345-2248 for Telecommunications Device for the Deaf accessibility.
The Playhouse is fully accessible. Audio enhancement receivers, large print programs and complete wheelchair access are available.
The 2016-17 Robert S. Marx Theatre season is presented by The Otto M. Budig Family Foundation, and Macy’s is the Robert S. Marx Theatre season design sponsor. The season sponsor of new work is the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Foundation.
The Playhouse is supported by the generosity of more than 40,000 contributors to the ArtsWave Community Campaign.
The Ohio Arts Council helps fund the Playhouse with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.
The Playhouse also receives funding from the Shubert Foundation.
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