Friday, August 22, 2008

Rare Theatrical Event Brings August Wilson Full Circle to the Alliance Theatre

In a unique Atlanta-only event, the Alliance Theatre, in partnership with True Colors Theatre Company, completes a cycle that has been twenty years in the making. Opening the Alliance’s 40th season will be two masterpieces of contemporary theatre from August Wilson’s ten-play Century Cycle—Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf. The power of legacy is captured in these plays with two award-winning directors—Kenny Leon and Kent Gash—who will join forces to honor one of America’s greatest playwrights. The Alliance becomes one of the few theatres in the country to have produced all ten plays in the cycle. The plays will be performing in repertory with each play featuring the same company of actors, giving the Atlanta community an exclusive opportunity to see both plays in the same day and/or the same week. Opening for both plays is Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008: Gem of the Ocean at 2 p.m. and Radio Golf at 8 p.m. on the Alliance Stage. Tickets are available at the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office by calling 404.733.5000 or online at

Gem of the Ocean, directed by True Colors Theatre Company Artistic Director Kenny Leon (who directed the Broadway version in 2004), is an evocative story of redemption and renewal set in 1904 Pittsburgh. It tells the story of Aunt Ester and her legendary home at 1839 Wylie Street in the Hill District, a focal point for the legacy of emancipation. Over the years, many migrant African-American workers arrive at the home looking for spiritual guidance, new possibilities and hope, including one man who is on the run from a dangerous past.

Radio Golf, directed by Alliance Theatre Associate Artistic Director Kent Gash, returns the audience to Pittsburgh 90 years later in 1997. Harmond Wilks is mounting a campaign to become the city’s first black mayor and achieve his admirable dreams of urban renewal in the Hill District. However, his past real estate successes don’t prepare him for the head-on clash between his dreams and the link to his past. His struggle between destiny and legacy is at the heart of a political campaign that challenges the future of the city.

August Wilson has a close relationship with the Alliance. Both Kenny Leon (who served as the Alliance Theatre artistic director for 11 years) and Kent Gash (who directed Wilson’s King Headley II during the 2003-04 Season) have rich histories with Wilson and his plays. These deep personal relationships reunite the playwright with the Alliance and the city of Atlanta.

Of the seven-member cast, five will be performing in both plays with two performing only in Gem of the Ocean. Local actors include Donald Griffin (Cuttin’ Up and King Hedley II), Tonia M. Jackson, Larry Larson (Glengarry Glen Ross and The Bench), E. Roger Mitchell (Cuttin’ Up and Romeo and Juliet) and Afemo Omilami. Additional actors include Chad L. Coleman (HBO series “The Wire”) from New York and Michele Shay (played Aunt Ester in August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean directed by Kenny Leon at the Kennedy Center) from California.

Members of the artistic team that will bring these profound plays to life on stage are Edward E. Haynes, Jr., set designer; Mariann Verheyen, costume designer; Ann G. Wrightson, lighting designer; Dan Moses Schreier, sound designer for Gem of the Ocean; Clay Benning, sound designer for Radio Golf; and Jade Lambert Smith, dramaturg.

Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Aug. 30 – Sept. 28, 2008 on the Alliance Stage. There will not be a matinee performance Saturday, Aug. 30 at 2 p.m.

Opening/Media Night is Sept. 6 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Sept. 14 and 21 shows at 2 p.m. will be Audio Described for the visually impaired.

Tickets are $15 – $45 and are available at the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office by calling 404.733.5000 or online at Discount rates for groups of 10 or more are available by calling 404.733.4690. Discount rates are also available for members of the military, seniors and students. The Alliance Theatre is located at the Woodruff Arts Center, corner of Peachtree and 15th Street, in Midtown Atlanta.

Special Event: Safe House Reading

Friday, Sept. 26 at 8 p.m.

Staged reading featuring the casts of Gem of the Ocean and Radio GolfDirected by Kent GashTickets: $5

Safe House is a powerful new play in the spirit of August Wilson’s cycle! In Kentucky in the 1840s, one family of free people of color, free since their great-grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War, can’t resist the temptation to help just one more young woman escape from slavery along the Underground Railroad. Commissioned by the Alliance Theatre in tribute to August Wilson, Keith Josef Adkins, an African-American playwright and screenwriter, was inspired by his own family history to write the play. Safe House is a play in the great American tradition of historical romance as two brothers compete against each other for their birthright of freedom.

August Wilson Fill Circle is part of the Coca-Cola Series on the Alliance Stage.

Additional Sponsors: August Wilson Full Circle is sponsored by Delta Air Lines – the Official Airline of the Alliance Theatre; the Marriott Residence Inn – the Official Hotel of the Alliance Theatre; and The Home Depot – the Set Construction Sponsor of the Alliance Theatre.

Production of August Wilson Full Circle is made possible with grants from the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs, the Fulton County Arts Council, the Georgia Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
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