Arizona Theatre Company begins the new year with August Wilson’s “Fences.” Set in the 1950s, the Pulitzer Prize-winning play is a powerful exploration of the African-American experience that, despite the passage of time, remains strikingly relevant today. Performances, which take place at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe, begin on Friday, Feb. 11, and continue through Sunday, Feb. 28.
Born and raised in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wilson wrote a series of plays exploring the experience African-Americans in the twentieth century, decade by decade. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize for “Fences,” he also won a Tony Award for the work and earned a second Pulitzer Prize for “The Piano Lesson.”
When sanitation worker Troy Maxson finds his career as a star baseball player blunted by the racism prevalent in pre-Jackie Robinson America, he builds a fence to protect what is familiar and hold off what threatens. “Fences” shows what can happen when a strong man is robbed of his dreams.
“With this production of ‘Fences,’ we welcome back to ATC not only the grandeur and power of August Wilson’s work, but also the return of some of our favorite artists to create the production,” said David Ira Goldstein, ATC’s artistic director. “Director Lou Bellamy is one of America’s greatest interpreters of the Wilson world,” he added, noting that Bellamy is “keenly attuned to his themes, deeply connected to the rhythm of his dialogue, championing the universal truths in his words.”
Bellamy is the founder and artistic director of Penumbra Theatre Company, which is dedicated to the dramatic exploration of the African-American experience and has produced 35 world premieres, including Wilson’s first professional production. For ATC, he has directed such products as “Jitney,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “A Raisin in the Sun.” He has also directed plays for the Kennedy Center, the Guthrie Theater, Hartford Stage Company, the Cleveland Play House, Denver Center for the Performing Arts and Signature Theatre.
David Alan Anderson returns to ATC as Troy Maxson. He previously appeared at ATC as Walter Lee in “A Raisin in the Sun.” Recent regional credits include “The Mountaintop” and “Gem of the Ocean” at the Court Theatre, Chicago; “The Giver,” “What I Learned in Paris,” “Radio Golf,” “The Mountaintop,” “Julius Caesar,” “The Whipping Man” and “Romeo and Juliet” at Indiana Repertory Theatre; “King Lear” and “Othello” at Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival and “The Tempest” at Actors Theatre of Louisville. Andersen is a Penumbra Theatre Company member and was awarded a Lunt Fontanne Fellowship.
Playing Rose is Kim Staunton, who previously appeared at ATC in “Touch the Names.” For the past 14 seasons, she has been a guest company member at the Denver Center Theatre Company. She has also performed in numerous productions on and Off-Broadway. Some of her regional credits include Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Repertory Theatre, the O’Neill Theatre Center, Ebony Repertory Theatre and more. Among her film and television credits are “Heat,” “Changing Lanes,” “Eleventh Hour” and “Law and Order.”
James T. Alfred returns to ATC as Lyons after previously appearing in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Jitney” and most recently, “The Mountaintop.” Among his other theater credits are Penumbra Theatre Company, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Guthrie Theater and Indiana Repertory Theatre. Alfred has a recurring role as Tyree in the TV series “Empire” and has also appeared in “Prison Break,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Boss.”
Playing Gabriel is Terry Bellamy, a founding member of Penumbra Theatre Company and the recipient of two Twin Cities Drama Critics Circle Awards. He has appeared at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Goodman Theatre, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Guthrie Theater, Guthrie II, Center Stage Baltimore, Hudson Guild (Off-Broadway), Park Square Theatre, Mixed Blood Theatre, Cleveland Play House, Ten Thousand Things Theater and Illusion Theater.
Marcus Naylor, who last appeared at ATC as Floyd Barton in August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars,” takes the part of Bono. Some of his Off-Broadway credits include “Cool Blues” at New Federal Theatre, “Black Stars of the Great White Way” at Carnegie Hall and “Breaking Philip Glass” with The Collective. Regionally, he has appeared at the Denver Center, Cleveland Play House, Shakespeare on the Sound, Karamu House, Kennedy Center, Berkshire Playwrights Lab, Arena Stage and Crossroads Theatre. Film and television credits include: “In This Our Youth,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Hudson Sunset in the After-while,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “Without a Trace,” among others.
Making his ATC debut as Cory is Edgar Sanchez. Among his Chicago credits are “Romeo and Juliet” and “Twelfth Night” at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre; “Water by the Spoonful” and “Native Son” at the Court Theatre; “The Wheel” at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Regional credits include the title role in “Hamlet” at The GableStage; “Water by the Spoonful” at Theatre Squared; “Othello,” “The Comedy of Errors” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; and “Richard III,” “Twelfth Night,” “Troilus and Cressida” and “The Admirable Crichton” at American Players Theatre. He has also appeared in the TV series “Sense8.”
Fifth grade student Simeeyah Grace Baker makes her ATC debut as Raynell. Originally from Texas, she began ballet training at the age of 6 with Soleste Lupu and Joseph Rodgers of Dancing in the Streets Arizona. She has performed in “The Nutcracker,” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Requiem” for Dancing in the Streets.
Members of the creative team include Vicki Smith, scenic design; Mathew J. LeFebvre, costume design; Don Darnutzer, lighting design; Brian Jerome Peterson, sound design. Production stage manager is Timothy Toothman.
Ticket prices currently start at $33 and are available in person at the Herberger Theater Center box office, via phone at 602-252-8497 or online.