Sep 30 2014

DC’s August Wilson Mini-Renaissance

MichelAndTimothyThe D.C. area seems to be experiencing an August Wilson renaissance, with multiple productions at several area theaters in one year. Longtime friends and colleagues Michele Shay (director of No Rules Theater Company’s production of Seven Guitars – closed on September 28) and Timothy Douglas (director of Arena Stage’s King Hedley II onstage from February 6 to March 8, 2015) agreed to let us eavesdrop on their conversations about working on the inestimable August Wilson. Stay tuned to the Arena Stage and No Rules Theatre blogs over the next few months as Timothy and Michele discuss August Wilson’s work, his significance, and his lasting impact on artists and audiences.

In their first conversation, Michele and Timothy discuss why we keep coming back to August Wilson, what excites them about his plays, and why he’s so popular in DC right now.

What is it about August Wilson ?

TD: The quality of August Wilson’s writings are often compared to the universality of Shakespeare’s with regard to the depths of insight into the human condition that they access, and whose relevance cuts across class, race and generational lines.

MS: We are witnessing the establishment of August Wilson’s work as Classics. Every time one sees one of the Cycle plays, you have the opportunity to get more out of it. That is what a Classical text offers – it vibrates and lasts over time.

TD: And like the Bard, Mr. Wilson was reflecting and addressing specific cultural and political paradigms of his time – and did so by anchoring their expansive and all-consuming triumphs and conflicts within extraordinary, yet flawed characters…indeed, the hallmarks of all enduring writers.

MS: As I understand it, when he died in 2005, August was the most produced playwright in America – that year! But he is not yet a household name. I have students whose parents raised them on August’s plays. I also met people in the DC, Maryland and Arlington area while working on Seven Guitars who both questioned that there was too much August Wilson being done, and others who were die hard fans.

TD: But what distinguishes the writings of these two titans of dramatic literature lay in the fluidity of their plot-specifics to illuminate -  with mathematical exactness – the prevailing societal conditions, along with their corresponding and inspired ‘call to action.’

Why is DC enjoying so many August Wilson productions right now?

MS: Since the plays were first done I think the receptivity to the subject matter and content, the craft, the poetry, the universal common ground of humanity – not to mention the sheer entertainment he offers audiences – is greater than ever. I never tire of working on August. I particularly enjoy immersions in what I call “August Wilsonville.” I have played Aunt Ester in Gem of the Ocean five times and had friends of several different races and cultures come back multiple times to that one play because they got so much out of hearing it, seeing it again and again. The writing is really that good.

TD: What is being revealed within this mini-renaissance of Wilson’s works are what I call the content of ‘hidden chambers’ buried deep in the structure of the plays, which have been ‘unlocked’ as a direct result of the age of the Obama presidency. Chambers that reveal and give voice to profound and confounding nuances of America’s ongoing race-wrestling match in response to America’s election of its first black president…something that August Wilson may not have imagined during his lifetime, and yet his plays speak directly to its in-the-moment impact with a compelling urgency. As we invite and absorb these ‘new play’ qualities in revisiting Wilson’s Century Cycle, it seems a divinely guided – and in a way an obvious – act that DC has become the Ground Zero for us to rediscover ourselves as we rediscover August Wilson.

MS: To do him well – to experience all there is to experience – takes several trips to the well. It’s a little like finding a favorite place to vacation and going back over and over again. You are guaranteed a great time. Audiences who take the opportunity to see Seven Guitars and King Hedley back-to-back will have an amazing experience – an unforgettable experience.

Aug 23 2014

Seven Guitars and More

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Less than a month until the debut of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars, a play that The New York Times has called a “rich music-drenched drama”:

The marvel of Seven Guitars, which is always true of Wilson at his best, is how large a social portrait emerges from seeming small talk: from bickering, joking, gossiping and idle scheming. From such conversation emerges a sense of an entire economic and legal system, stacked unwinnably against the black man; a social structure in which home and relationships are rarely fixed; and a folklore of rhymes and superstitions and recipes that acquire another layer every time they are repeated.

Discover the rest of the exciting No Rules 2014-15 season here.

Be the first to see No Rules Theater Company’s Seven Guitars Sept. 10 – 28  in residence at Signature Theater in Shirlington Village (Arlington, VA). Get your tickets now.

Jul 16 2014

Medea: ‘They like me, they really like me!’

The reviews for Medea’s Got Some Issues are in and, as a certain character might say:

They are greeeeeaaat!

Lisa-Hodsoll-as-MEDEA-by-Andrew-Bossi

Writing for The Washington Post, Celia Wren calls Medea a “witty solo show” and a “hilarious rant.” Read the full review here.

And on DC Metro Theater Arts, Christina Marie Frank writes:

          Director Joshua Morgan and the team from No Rules Theatre Company
          create the perfect atmosphere including a fabulous set … The real treat
          of this show is to see that fringe is not just for newcomers, but a chance for
          seasoned professionals to stretch their wings.

          Hodsoll does this brilliantly when she expertly takes us through classical bits of
          Euripides, puts on a variety of accents with precision, and makes us laugh at
          Medea’s sadly accurate view of sexism. Perhaps her best role is as herself lamenting
          the tendency of DC theatre to ignore it’s greatest assets: actresses like her.

Keep reading.

Co-presented at the 2014 Capital Fringe Festival by No Rules Theatre Company and Spain Arts & Culture, Medea’s Got Some Issues has just three more performances. Get your tickets now.

Jul 14 2014

Good Word of Mouth for Medea

The Washington City Paper‘s Rebecca Ritzel says she’s glad she made it to the opening night of Medea’s Got Some Issues. Join us for the next show Tuesday evening!

(From 8’58” to 12’42” Rebecca & Chris Klimek, the editor of Fringeworthy, talk Medea)

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