This January, Pioneer Theatre Company brings another American classic to their stage, opening the new year with “Fences” on January 6.
“Fences” comes at a more than appropriate time as the story centers around the African-American Maxson family in Pittsburg during the 1950s. Tron Maxson, the patriarch, used to play in the Negro baseball league, but has now found himself working as a garbage man. His son Cory, now graduating high school, is looking towards a college career in football, causing conflict with his father. With the changing times around him, Troy must reckon with his family and his past because perhaps he has not become the man he wanted to be. As the play considers how the consequences of actions affect lives, it allows audiences to evaluate where humankind is as a culture and where it has yet to go.
“Fences” was written in 1983 as part of August Wilson’s Pittsburg Cycle. This cycle includes one play set in Pittsburg for each decade and uses the constantly shifting backdrop of the city to highlight questions of identity and community. Much like the other plays of the cycle, “Fences” addresses issues of race. Troy frequently finds himself harping on the fact that if baseball had been integrated, he could have had a successful athletic career. However, that was not the case and his life is far from what he expected. Living as a family man requires vastly different skills. Unlike his son who can still see the hope of what the future may hold, Troy realizes his life is coming to a close far more quickly than he is comfortable with.
For Pioneer Theater’s production, the role of Troy Maxson will be played by Michael Anthony Williams. He is an Equity actor known for his work in other Wilson plays, including “Jitney,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” and “Two Trains Running.” Gayle Samuels will be joining him onstage as Rose Maxon, Troy’s wife. Her Broadway credits include “Sunset Boulevard” and “Dreamgirls,” along with performances in the Metropolitan Opera’s “Lady Macbeth of Mtsenk” off Broadway. Jimmie “J.J.” Jeter will be playing Cory, and Biko Eisen-Martin will be playing Troy’s oldest son, Lyons. The cast also includes Jeorge Bennett Watson, Jefferson A. Russell, and Meg Hoglund. Director Timothy Douglas has returned to Pioneer again after his work on “Clybourne Park” in 2013. His work has spanned over one hundred projects, including the world premier of Wilson’s “Radio Golf.”
Tickets for “Fences” are available at the box office at Pioneer or online at www.pioneertheatre.org. Students can purchase tickets in advance for half price, or arrive one hour prior to curtain and purchase rush tickets for $5, so don’t forget your UCard!