|by Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, PhD|
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Playwright August Wilson and Oakland's Lower Bottom Playaz
King Hedley II is the beginning of the end of The Lower Bottom Playaz, Inc., momentous American Century Cycle Project. King Hedley is currently running at The Flight Deck on Broadway in Oakland CA. It opens The Playaz, main stage for Season16.Continua: The American Century Cycle Project and only leaves Radio Golf which will be main stage in December 2015 at The Flight Deck, concluding both Season 16 and The American Century Cycle Project.
The Playaz began production of The American century Cycle in 2010 after producing Gem of the Ocean in 2009 and falling into relationship with the spirit and intention of August Wilson, America's greatest playwright living or dead. In 2010 I announced our intention to be the first company to ever fully stage the Cycle. In 2015, with Hedley up and running my troupe and I are poised on the edge of the completion of a ritual never fully enacted. We play for the Master in most humble gratitude for his generous blessings upon us as we have struggled to manifest this work. It has been a journey that has taken us places we could not have imagined and even more important it has brought us home.
We are producing Hedley and Golf in our new house in uptown Oakland. The journey from our own out door theater in West Oakland to a residency in an indoor 100 seat black box in uptown has been a tumultuous journey full of pathos, falling to rise higher, refusing to fail, striving and daring to fly in the dark to find our light. We are going to be the first to formally stage the Cycle in chronological order. No other company has ever done so. The Green Room recordings were done after we started our journey with Wilson and they come as close to chronological production as anything ever done but they are recordings of readings. Some companies have staged all ten works in the order Wilson wrote them. No company has ever achieved what we are poised to accomplish.
In some ways its been a lonely journey. Not a lot of attention has been given our effort. We are a small company that started out as a Gypsy theater performing in non-traditional spaces including half way houses for reentry populations and shelters for the homeless. A 100 seat outdoor theater was built for us in West Oakland where we did 13 Seasons of theater. We did Shakespearean adaptations, established the Shakespeare in the Hood series, toured Mack A Gangsta's Tale to violence riddled areas of Oakland and Richmond, CA. We did an original work, Mama at Twilight: Death by Love that frankly examined the HIV growth in black communities by interrogating gendered roles and community taboos. We established our brand around telling stories that facilitated vitally important community discussion. We honed our craft and survived and very quietly became one of the greatest opportunity for black actors and theater makers in the East Bay. The community organization that partially funded our work stopped funding our productions mid way through our production of The Century Cycle and we became the only theater company to produce in The African American Museum and Library at Oakland CA. where we independently produced Fences. We then took up residency in The Flight Deck where we produced Two Trains Running and Jitney.
We are so very proud to reach the conclusion of our commitment to August Wilson who in many ways has guided our growth, instructed our direction, and renewed our commitment to our craft, our communities, and our selves. Wilson is the only work we have not felt a need to make site specific as is our habit. In Wilson we see ourselves and we see ourselves as part of the nation in the nation behind the veil in North America, and the universal nature of Wilson's site specific Cycle (all the plays take place in the Hill Distinct of Pittsburgh PA with the exception of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom). We recognize and have come to overstand Wilson's song of North America; its our lives, we have lived it, bled it, and learned to sing it with honor and dignity as we have walked with Wilson.
If you have seen our work you know we do Wilson with integrity and passion. If you have not a great theater experience is waiting for you. Join us at our new theater to be a part of our red carpet season as we conclude The Century Cycle Project.
Book tickets for King Hedley, II and Radio Golf today: http://www.lowerbottomplayaz.com/box-office.php