AAPACT takes on the work of the iconic August Wilson

“Fences” pushes local Black theater group to new heights

D. Kevin McNeir | 10/10/2013, 9 a.m.
August Wilson, the late, prolific Black playwright who snagged not one — but two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama — was ...

August Wilson, the late, prolific Black playwright who snagged not one — but two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama — was a writer dedicated to perfecting his craft for the theater. As an interracial child of a family of six children raised mostly by his Black



mother in an economically-depressed neighborhood in Pittsburgh, he dropped out of high school at 16 because of racial hostility and a “less than challenging curriculum.” But he continued to educate himself, reading the works of Black authors/poets that included Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps. The fact that he would rise to the heights of American playwrights like Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Lorraine Hansberry is a testament to his inherent brilliance and hard work.

Beginning Wed., Oct. 16 and continuing through Sun., Nov. 3, the African American Performing Arts Community Theatre [AAPACT, 6161 NW 22nd Ave.], founded by Miami native Teddy Harrell, Jr., will bring Wilson’s “Fences” — for which he garnered his first Pulitzer — to the stage. Harrell says “it’s an honor to be doing

Wilson for a small theater company.” But he’s clearly being modest, given the amount of work that goes into successfully putting on any of Wilson’s 10 plays, often referred to as his “Century Cycle.”

“It’s a beast of a work and to portray the main characters, Troy and Rose, is a major undertaking for any actor,” he said. “Wilson writes in a way that is repetitious and all of his words are very important. But he is a poet first so you’ve got to get into a rhythm when delivering his lines. We have a cast that is capable of making Wilson proud.”

The story and the cast

“Fences” explores the life and relationships of the Maxson family. The protagonist, Troy Maxson [Larry Robinson] is a restless trash collector and a former Negro League baseball star. He represents Blacks’ struggle for justice and fair treatment in the 1950s and is a man who feels he was “born at the wrong time.”

His wife, Rose [Carolyn Johnson] must not only contend with her husband’s frustrations and anger but also his infidelity that leads to a son whom she eventually agrees to raise.

“I could work with Carolyn time and time again,” Harrell said. “She was amazing in “King Hedley II” [another Wilson play that AAPACT produced] and last year in “The Amen Corner.” And Larry brings as much to the role as James Earl Jones did when “Fences” first premiered on Broadway.”

Harrell, who serves as AAPACT’s producing artistic director and directs the play, says that while Wilson’s contributions remain both relevant and profound, not enough people in South Florida are familiar with his works. But he hopes to change that.

“Perhaps it’s just a sign of the times but now you have to add ‘stage play’ to the end of Wilson’s plays in order for some to know it’s a live production,” he said.

“Many Black companies are leaning towards producing the more comedic shows with a Christian theme. We wanted to bring something that is as significant to the Black community as “A Raisin in the Sun.” Wilson’s characters breathe essence into the whole Black American experience. And “Fences” is without question, a great American play written by a Black American.”

The cast is rounded out by Andre’ L. Gainey, Darryl Vaughn, Charles Bonamy, Roderick Randall and Lara Storm.

For information go to www.aapact.com or call 305-456-0287.