Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cal Shakespeare presents August Wilson's Fences

Subject: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Cal Shakes presents August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize winner, FENCES, July 6-31
Press Contact: Marilyn Langbehn
Office: 510.809.3290
Cell: 510.910.3129

Berkeley, CA – California Shakespeare Theater’s 25th anniversary season at the Bruns Amphitheater continues with August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story of the American Dream deferred, Fences, directed by Raelle Myrick-Hodges in her Cal Shakes debut. Fences, which plays from July 6 through July 31, marks the first time Cal Shakes has presented August Wilson’s work on its stage. For tickets and information, contact the Cal Shakes Box Office at 510.548.9666 or visit www.calshakes.org
Part of August Wilson’s monumental ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for Best Play, Fences is the playwright’s “finest and most credible portrait of a relationship between a man and a woman” (New York Times). Set in 1950s Pittburgh, former Negro League ballplayer-turned-sanitation worker Troy Maxson and his wife, Rose, struggle to keep their marriage afloat as Troy battles to retain his dignity and his family in the face of a rapidly changing America.
“I love Wilson; his work is ironic, painful, and sincere, but until recently, I ‘avoided’ working on it,” says director Raelle Myrick-Hodges. “It felt to me as if the comment on his work, coming mostly from white critics and white audiences, forced a singular perception of the black experience. My mentor (Guthrie Theater Artistic Director) Joseph Haj enlightened me to the greatness of Wilson’s writing, so now I feel safe as an artist to discuss a specific story without having to conjure an entire community’s idea of black community. I have learned so much about myself as a black woman from working on Wilson—as if the two of us are having our OWN conversation—and ANY audience is merely over hearing our conversation. I read what is on the page and feel joyous in serving Wilson, rather than the ‘idea’ of Wilson.”
The cast for Fences features Bay Area powerhouses Aldo Billingslea as former Negro League ballplayer turned sanitation worker Troy Maxson (Cal Shakes’ Spunk, King Lear, A Winter’s Tale, and Lady Windermere’s Fan), and Margo Hall as his wife, Rose (Cal Shakes’ A Raisin in the Sun, A Winter’s Tale, and Spunk), whose enduring strength holds the family together. Also in the cast are J. Alphonse Nicholson (Seven Guitars, Actor’s Theatre of Louisiana; The Piano Lesson, Cape Fear Regional Theatre; Autumn Harvest, Lincoln Center Theater) as Cory; Donald E. Lacy, Jr. (Cal Shakes’ Hamlet: Blood in the Brain and Alleluia: The Road; Berkeley Rep’s The People’s Temple; The Miles Davis Experience, produced by Columbia Records) as Gabriel; Guiesseppe Jones (title role in Othello, North Carolina Shakespeare Festival; Race, CATF; Master Harold…and the Boys, The Weston Playhouse) as Bono; Lance Gardner (most recently seen as Don Pedro/Ursula in Cal Shakes’ season opener, Much Ado About Nothing), and Anaiya Asomugha and Kailynn Guidry, sharing the role of Raynell. Nicholson, Lacy, Jones, Asomugha, and Guidry are all making their Cal Shakes Main Stage debuts with this production.
The creative team for Fences includes set designer Michael Locher, whose previous designs for Cal Shakes include Spunk and The Winter’s Tale; costume designer Alina Bokovikova, resident costumer for North Coast Rep, whose work has been seen at The Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, Theatreworks, and San Diego Rep, among others; lighting designer Xavier Pierce, whose work has been enjoyed at regional theaters across the country, including the Guthrie, Long Wharf, Playmakers Rep, and Arena Stage; and sound designer Mikaal Sulaiman , an LA-based music producer who has sound-designed numerous theatrical trailers for the Weinstein Company, and created the soundscape for Raelle Myrick-Hodges production of Two Trains Running at the Arden Theatre in Philadelphia.
At the request of director Myrick-Hodges, Cal Shakes worked with Community Partners Allen Temple Arms and Berkeley Food and Housing Project to gather a group of local African American women together to share their stories in response to the character Rose’s journey in the play. Excerpts of these stories (in addition to portraits taken by photographer Sonjhai Meggette) will be featured in an installation at the Bruns.
Born in North Carolina, raised in Washington, D.C. and educated internationally, Raelle Myrick-Hodges (Director) is a graduate of Ealing College of Humanities (London) and the University of Southern California. Artistically mentored by Mr. George C. Wolfe and Joseph Haj respectfully, she is the founder of Azuka Theater in Philadelphia (now in its 20th year) and the former Artistic Director of Brava Theater in San Francisco. Raelle has worked with artists such as Geoffrey Arend, Meryl Streep, Jeffrey Wright, Mos Def, Tony Kushner, April Mathis, and Keith David among others. Her work as a performance art creator/curator has been seen at the DeYoung Museum, Red Poppy Art House, Feroz Gallery (Germany), Theater Minnot (Beirut, Lebanon) and Ami Gallerie (Paris). As a producer/curator, her programming ranges from regional artists to high profile internationally-known ensembles and performers in music, dance and theater, including artists such as Denis O’Hare, The Rude Mechanicals, Sam Green, Double Edge Theater, Arturo Sandoval, and Joey Arias among others. She will present a new collaborative work with Urban Bush Women this fall and is slated to present works for PACE University and National Black Theater in the upcoming 2016-2017 season. She is currently creating a new work with Elephant Room entitled, “#BLKGRLSINGALONG” to premiere January 2018. 
Playwright August Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on April 27, 1945. His mother, Daisy Wilson, was of African-American heritage; his father was a German immigrant named Frederick Kittel. When his parents divorced, he, his mother and his siblings moved from the poor Bedford Avenue area of Pittsburgh to a mostly white suburb in the Oakland section. After facing the relentless bigotry of his classmates at Central Catholic High School, he left and at age 15 began to pursue an independent education at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, where he would earn his high school diploma. Following his father's death in 1965, a 20-year-old Frederick Kittel adopted the pen name "August Wilson"—reportedly as homage to his mother—and declared himself a poet. He wrote his first notable play, Jitney, in 1979, for which he earned a fellowship at the Minneapolis Playwright Center. Jitney marked the beginning of his work on a ten-play series, known as The Pittsburgh Cycle; each play is set in a different decade and depicts aspects of the African-American experience in the 20th century. In 1982 Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was accepted at the Eugene O'Neill Playwright's Conference; in that same year he was introduced to Yale School of Drama Dean Lloyd Richards, who went on to direct Wilson's first six Broadway plays. Fences premiered on Broadway in 1987, earning the playwright his first Pulitzer Prize as well as a Tony Award for Best Play. The remainder of the cycle followed in quick succession: Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1988), The Piano Lesson (1990), for which he earned his second Pulitzer; Two Trains Running (1991), Seven Guitars (1994), King Hedley II (2001), and Gem of the Ocean (2004). August Wilson died of liver cancer on October 2, 2005, in Seattle, Washington. His tenth and final play of the cycle, Radio Golf, had opened its pre-Broadway run in Los Angeles just a few months earlier.
As part of its commitment to exploring the intersection between theater and civic practice, Cal Shakes is hosting a Civic Dialogue series, with topics designed to deepen the connection between the theater’s Main Stage work and its ability to highlight the voices of marginalized communities through partnerships with community organizations and presentations by community-based artists. On July 11 from 5-9pm, Cal Shakes will host “The Construction of Gender: Actualizing Women’s Empowerment” at the Impact Hub in Oakland; this facilitated dialogue will explore representation and societal expectations of women, (particularly within the family structure), and the importance of self-determination in creating depictions of women that better explore the intersections of gender and race. This event is free and open to the public; RSVP online at http://bit.ly/1U4MqEX.
Single tickets for Fences range from $20 to $84, with discounts available for seniors, youth, students, military families, persons age 30 and under, and groups. Prices, dates, titles, and artists are subject to change. For information or to charge tickets by phone with VISA, MasterCard, or American Express, call the Cal Shakes Box Office at 510.548.9666. Additional information and online ticketing are available at www.calshakes.org.
California Shakespeare Theater’s 2016 season is supported in part by the generosity of The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, the Dean & Margaret Lesher Foundation, The Bernard Osher Foundation, and The Shubert Foundation. Corporate partners include BART, City National Bank, John Muir Health, Meyer Sound, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, and San Francisco magazine; production partner for August Wilson’s Fences is The Bay’s R&B 102.9 FM KBLX Radio. Fences is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.
California Shakespeare Theater (Cal Shakes), under the leadership of Artistic Director Eric Ting and Managing Director Susie Falk, is now in its 42nd season as a nationally-recognized leader in drawing on the power of authentic, inclusive storytelling to create more vibrant communities. Serving more than 43,000 people annually, Cal Shakes invites people from all walks of life to make deeply-felt connections with our shared humanity through its work onstage, in schools, and with people in non-traditional settings throughout the Bay Area who have little or no access to theater. Cal Shakes is also proud of its role as an steward of the protected watershed that houses its artistic home, the magnificent Bruns Amphitheater; in 2012 the Bruns became one of the largest solar-powered outdoor professional theaters in the country. In 2016, Cal Shakes celebrates its 25th anniversary at the Bruns, named “one of the most beautiful outdoor performing spaces in America” by the Wall Street Journal. For more information, visit www.calshakes.org.

WHAT                   California Shakespeare Theater’s production of August Wilson’s Fences
WHO                     Directed by Raelle Myrick-Hodges
Designed by Michael Locher (set designer), Alina Bokovikova (costume designer), Xavier Pierce (lighting designer), and Mikaal Sulaiman (sound designer).
Featuring: Aldo Billingslea, Margo Hall, J. Alphonse Nicholson, Donald E. Lacy, Jr., Guiesseppe Jones, Lance Gardner, Anaiya Asomugha, and Kailynn Guidry.
WHEN                   July 6-July 31, 2016
Previews Jul 6, 7, and 8 at 8pm
Press Opening Jul 9 at 8pm
Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Saturday Matinee July 30 at 2pm
Sunday Matinees at 4pm
Grounds open two hours prior to show time for picnicking. Café and full bar are available on site.
WHERE                 Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda, CA 94563
(just off Highway 24 at the California Shakespeare Theater Way/Wilder Rd. exit, one mile east of the Caldecott Tunnel.)
Complimentary shuttle from Orinda BART beginning 2 hours before curtain.
Complimentary parking onsite.
TICKETS                Single tickets range from $20 to $84, with discounts available for seniors, students, persons age 30 and under, and groups. Cal Shakes makes twenty tickets available for $20 on a first-come, first-served basis for every performance throughout the season. Call Cal Shakes’ Box Office at 510.548.9666 between noon and 2pm to purchase. Prices subject to change.
All tickets are available through the California Shakespeare Theater Box Office, 701 Heinz Avenue, Berkeley CA, 510.548.9666, online at www.calshakes.org, or at the Bruns box office on the day of the performance (pending availability).
GROUPS              Groups of 10 or more save $10 off the adult single ticket price; complimentary ticket available for groups of 15+. For more information, call 510.809.3290.
INFO                      www.calshakes.org
Fences Special Events
First Look, Saturday, July 2, 7-9pm, Bruns Amphitheater
Get a First Look into the process of creating the production the week before performances begin. Artistic Director Eric Ting will moderate a Q&A with the director and select designers, followed by an opportunity to observe a technical rehearsal. Free and open to the public; to RSVP call 510.899.4840, or email FirstLook@calshakes.org.
Pay-What-You-Can Preview, Wednesday, Jul 6, 8pm
The first preview of each show is a special Pay-What-You-Can performance. Tickets are first-come, first-served, and available beginning at 6pm day of show only; to purchase, call the Cal Shakes Box Office at 510.548.9666 or visit the Bruns Amphitheater Box Office. Supply is limited.
Opening Night Post-Show Party, Jul 9, following the performance
Experience the excitement of the opening night performance and then mingle with the cast and creative team at a complimentary post-show party.
Civic Dialogue: “The Construction of Gender: Actualizing Women’s Empowerment”, Impact Hub in Oakland;
Wednesday, July 11, 5-9pm
A facilitated discussion to explore representation and societal expectations of women, particularly within the family structure), and the importance of self-determination in creating depictions of women that better explore the intersections of gender and race. This event is free and open to the public; RSVP online at http://bit.ly/1U4MqEX.
Open-captioned performance, Wednesday, Jul 13, 7:30pm
Special seating and opening-captioning for hearing-impaired patrons, who can read the text and dialogue on a digital screen. Purchase tickets for section A online www.calshakes.org or call the Box Office at 510.548.9666. For groups of 10 or more, email groups@calshakes.org or call 510.809.3290.
Meet the Artists, Sundays, Jul 10 and Jul 24, following the 4pm performance
Audience members enjoy an opportunity to engage in a lively discussion about the production with cast members following select 4pm matinee performances. Free and open to all.
InSight Matinee, Sunday, Jul 17, following the 4pm matinee
Explore the world of the play through an informal dialogue with the production’s dramaturg. Free and open to all.
Grove Talks, 45 minutes before each performance
Led by resident Grove Talks speakers, these free, informal 20-minute talks are held on site 45 minutes before each and every performance in the ADA-accessible Grove Talk grove, offering invaluable insight into the play and the production.
Marilyn Langbehn
Marketing and PR Manager
California Shakespeare Theater
Shakespeare’s sharpest comedy
Cal Shakes debut of Pulitzer-prize winning playwright
Shaw’s romantic farce for modern audiences
Eric Ting’s Cal Shakes directorial debut
May 25–June 19
July 6–31
Aug 10–Sept 4 
Sept 14–Oct 9

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