Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Feb. 6- Mar. 8: Two-Time Tony Award Nominee André De Shields, Bowman Wright, E. Faye Butler, KenYatta Rogers, Jessica Frances Dukes and Michael Anthony Williams Set for Arena Stage’s King Hedley II

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is presenting August Wilson’s classic drama King Hedley II. Set in the 1980s Hill District of Pittsburgh, the ninth installment of Pulitzer Prize winner Wilson’s acclaimed play cycle examining Black America follows a scarred ex-convict who struggles to turn his life around and lock away his past. The drama is directed by Timothy Douglas, who worked with the late playwright on the world premiere of Radio Golf and has directed eight plays out of Wilson’s 10-play cycle. King Hedley II runs February 6-March 8, 2015 in the Fichandler Stage. Arena Stage is located at 1101 Sixth St., SW, Washington, DC, the facility is only one block from the Waterfront (SEU) green line Metro stop.

Bowman Wright stars as King, the returning ex-convict with seven years of prison haunting him. Wright, who was last seen at Arena Stage as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Mountaintop, is joined by returning Arena Stage cast members E. Faye Butler (Smokey Joe’s Café, Pullman Porter Blues, Oklahoma!) as Ruby and KenYatta Rogers (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) as Mister. Making their Arena Stage debuts are Two-Time Tony Award nominee André De Shields (Broadway’s The Full Monty, Ain’t Misbehavin’) as Stool Pigeon, Jessica Frances Dukes (Playwrights Horizons’ Bootycandy) as Tonya and Michael Anthony Williams (Round House’s Two Trains Running) as Elmore.

King Hedley II director Timothy Douglas, Michael Anthony Williams, André De Shields, Jessica Frances Dukes, Bowman Wright and KenYatta Rogers. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage

King Hedley II director Timothy Douglas, Michael Anthony Williams, André De Shields, Jessica Frances Dukes, Bowman Wright and KenYatta Rogers. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage

“Playwrights like Eugene O’Neill wanted to write cycles of plays, but it was only August Wilson who completed his brilliant 10-play cycle,” shares Artistic Director Molly Smith. “These plays are strong and contemporary and have already stood the test of time. Arena Stage has a long history of producing many plays in the cycle, from Fences to Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. I know Timothy Douglas and our terrific cast will take King Hedley II and deliver the powerful storytelling that August Wilson intended.”

Artistic Director Molly Smith and cast member André De Shields. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage

Artistic Director Molly Smith and cast member André De Shields. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage

“August Wilson’s seminal King Hedley II provides a searing insight into the complex life and trials of a black American man,” adds Douglas. “Through powerful and stirring spoken word-operatic in scope-the triumphant arias from Hedley and his Pittsburgh Hill District crew provide the very ignition that has sent present-day America into the streets to voice its rallying cry ‘Black Lives Matter’!”

The creative team for King Hedley II includes set designer Tony Cisek, costume designer Ilona Somogyi, lighting designer Allen Lee Hughes, sound designer Ryan Rumery, New York casting Geoff Josselson, stage manager William E. Cruttenden III and assistant stage manager Marne Anderson.

August Wilson

August Wilson

August Wilson (Playwright) authored Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and GoneMa Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II and Radio Golf. These works explore the heritage and experience of African-Americans, decade-by-decade, over the course of the 20th century. His plays have been produced at regional theaters across the country and all over the world, as well as on Broadway. In 2003, Mr. Wilson made his professional stage debut in his one-man show, How I Learned What I Learned. Mr. Wilson’s works garnered many awards including Pulitzer Prizes for Fences and The Piano Lesson; a Tony Award for Fences; an Olivier Award for Jitney; and eight New York Drama Critics Circle Awards. The cast recording of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom received a 1985 Grammy Award, and Mr. Wilson received a 1995 Emmy Award nomination for his screenplay adaptation of The Piano Lesson. Mr. Wilson’s early works included the one-act plays The Janitor, Recycle, The Coldest Day of the Year, Malcolm X, The Homecoming and the musical satire Black Bart and the Sacred Hills. Mr. Wilson received Rockefeller and Guggenheim Fellowships in Playwriting, the Whiting Writers Award, the 2003 Heinz Award, was awarded a 1999 National Humanities Medal by the President of the United States and received numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities, as well as the only high school diploma ever issued by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He was an alumnus of New Dramatists, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a 1995 inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and on October 16, 2005, Broadway renamed the theater located at 245 West 52nd Street, The August Wilson Theatre. Mr. Wilson was posthumously inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2007. He was born and raised in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and lived in Seattle, Washington at the time of his death. He is immediately survived by his two daughters, Sakina Ansari and Azula Carmen Wilson, and his wife, costume designer Constanza Romero.

Director Timothy Douglas, lighting designer Allen Lee Hughes and cast member Michael Anthony Williams. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage

Director Timothy Douglas, lighting designer Allen Lee Hughes and cast member Michael Anthony Williams. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage

Timothy Douglas (Director) makes his Arena Stage debut with this production of King Hedley II. Other Washington area credits include Two Trains Running, The Trip to BountifulPermanent Collection and A Lesson Before Dying at Round House; Insurrection: Holding History at Theatre Alliance (two Helen Hayes nominations); the world premiere of The Last Orbit of Billy Mars at Woolly Mammoth and his Caribbean-inspired Much Ado About Nothing at the Folger. Recent credits include the world premiere of Rajiv Joseph’s The Lake Effect for Silk Road Rising (Chicago’s Jeff Award for Best New Work), off-Broadway’s Bronte: A Portrait Of Charlotte and the world premiere of August Wilson’s Radio Golf for Yale Repertory Theatre. He is currently an Associate Artist at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, where he has directed Clybourne Park, The North Pool and the world premiere of Safe House, and served as Associate Artistic Director at Actors Theatre of Louisville, where he directed 10 productions including three Humana Festival premieres. Timothy has directed over 100 projects for ACT, Guthrie, Berkeley Rep, Center Theatre Group, South Coast Rep, Steppenwolf, Playmakers Rep, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Downstage (NZ), National Theatret (Norway), Milwaukee Rep and many others. He is also a Linklater voice instructor and has served on the faculties of ACT, USC, North Carolina School of the Arts, New Zealand Drama School and Emerson College and holds an MFA in acting from Yale.

E. Faye Butler

E. Faye Butler

E. FAYE BUTLER (Ruby)’s previous Arena Stage productions include Smokey Joe’s Café, Pullman Porter Blues, Trouble in Mind, Oklahoma!, Crowns, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Polk County and Dinah Was. She performed with the Washington Ballet in The Great Gatsby and Blues Until June at the Kennedy Center. National and regional tours include Mamma Mia, Dinah Was, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Nunsense and Don’t Bother Me…. E. Faye has appeared at regional theaters such as Signature Theatre, Centerstage, La Jolla Playhouse, Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Lincolnshire Theatre, Dallas Theatre Company, Northlight Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Yale Repertory and Pasadena Playhouse. She is the recipient of six Jeff Awards, three Black Theatre Alliance Awards, an After Dark Award, John Barrymore Award, R.A.M.I. Award, two Helen Hayes Awards and seven nominations, Excellence in the Arts Award, Ovation Award, 2011 Sarah Siddons Society Leading Lady Award, 2012 Lunt-Fontaine Fellow and 2014 Kathryn V. Lamkey Award.

ANDRÉ DE SHIELDS (Stool Pigeon) is making his Arena Stage debut. Other Washington appearances include Jacob Strand in Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts at Shakespeare Theatre Company, the title role in King Lear at Folger Theatre and the 10th anniversary revival of Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the National Theatre. In a career spanning 45 years, André has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director and educator. A multiple Tony Award nominee, he is the recipient of the 2012 Fox Foundation Fellowship/Distinguished Achievement, the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award and the 2007 Village Voice OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance. He is best known for his show-stopping performances in six legendary Broadway productions: Impressionism (with Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen), Mark Medoff’s Prymate, The Full Monty, Play On!, Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Emmy Award) and The Wiz. Television credits include “Rescue Me”; “Law & Order”; “Law & Order: SVU”; “Sex and the City”; “Cosby”; “Life on Mars” and “Lipstick Jungle”. www.andredeshields.com Namaste!

Jessica Frances Dukes

Jessica Frances Dukes

JESSICA FRANCES DUKES (Tonya)’s D.C. credits include Bootycandy, In the Next Room, Full Circle, Eclipsed, Fever/Dream, Antebellum and Starving (Woolly Mammoth Theatre, company member); The Conference of The Birds (Folger Theatre); The Piano Lesson (Olney Theatre); Passing Strange and Caroline, or Change (Studio Theatre); Trip to Bountiful and Permanent Collection (Round House); Jitney (Fords Theatre); Spunk (Tribute Productions, Helen Hayes nomination); The Bluest Eye and Insurrection: Holding History (Theater Alliance) and more. Regional credits include Beneatha’s Place and Clybourne Park (Centerstage); Stick Fly (Arden Theatre), A Raisin in the Sun and The Piano Lesson (Geva Theatre); The Piano Lesson (Indiana Rep); Trip to Bountiful (Cleveland Playhouse) and more. Off-Broadway credits include Bootycandy at Playwrights Horizons. TV credits include “A Raisin in the Sun Revisited” on PBS. MFA from The Catholic University of America. www.jessicafrancesdukes.com

KenYatta Rogers

KenYatta Rogers

KENYATTA ROGERS (Mister) returns to Arena Stage after performing in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Regional credits include Two Trains Running, Eurydice and A Lesson Before Dying (Round House Theatre); Holly Down in Heaven (Forum Theatre); Topdog/Underdog and A Raisin in the Sun (Everyman Theatre); Fever/Dream (Woolly Mammoth); Jitney (Ford’s Theatre); Colossal (Olney Theatre Center); Comedy of Errors (Folger Theatre); The Piano Lesson (Trustus Theatre); Coriolanus (Shakespeare & Company) and As You Like It, Spunk and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (African Continuum Theatre). KenYatta received Helen Hayes nominations for performances in Insurrection: Holding History at Theatre Alliance and Glengarry Glen Ross at Round House Theatre (two nominations, one win). TV credits including the PBS series “Standard Deviants’ Television”. KenYatta received his MFA in Acting from the University of Pittsburgh and is currently a faculty member in Montgomery College’s Department of Speech, Dance, and Theatre. To Kasai, his heart, to Mecca, his soul, to Michelle, his all.

Michael Anthony Williams

Michael Anthony Williams

MICHAEL ANTHONY WILLIAMS (Elmore) is ecstatic to be making his Arena Stage debut. Other Washington appearances include RACE and Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide at Theater J; Two Trains Running, Treasure Island and Jesus Hopped the A Train at Round House Theater; Master Harold and the Boys at Studio Theater; Starving and We Are Proud to Present at Woolly Mammoth Theater; Jitney and To Kill a Mockingbird at Ford’s Theater and Two Trains Running and Nomathemba at The Kennedy Center. Off Broadway credits include Persephone at BAM. Regional credits include Nomathemba at Steppenwolf and Schubert Theaters, Of Mice and Men at Cincinnati Playhouse and To Kill a Mockingbird at Capital Rep. Michael Anthony is a proud former member of The Second City Theater Company in Chicago. Film credits include The Brave One, The Replacements, Contact and Unbreakable. TV credits include “FBI Files,” “Homicide: Life on the Streets” and “The Wire”. Michael dedicates his body of creative work to his daughter Margarita Williams.

Bowman Wright

Bowman Wright

BOWMAN WRIGHT (King) is excited to return to Arena Stage, where he was last seen as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Mountaintop. Theater credits include Our Lady of Kibeho (Nkango) at Signature Theatre Company; TogDog/UnderDog (Lincoln) at Marin Theatre Company; A Raisin in the Sun (Walter Lee Younger) at Geva Theatre Center; A Midsummer Night’s Dream at La Jolla Playhouse; The Dreamer Examines His Pillow (Tommy) at Shakespeare & Company; The Piano Lesson (Lymon) at Virginia Stage; Since Africa (Ater Dhal) and A House with No Walls (Jacob, Austin) at Interact Theatre; Fences (Cory) at Actors Theatre of Louisville and Death and the King’s Horsemen at Lantern Theatre. Films credits include Sight (Lionsgate Productions) and Vinson (Sainvil Productions). TV credits include “Person of Interest,” “Blue Bloods” and “Elementary”. Bowman is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego.

Executive Producer Edgar Dobie and cast member Jessica Frances Dukes. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage

Executive Producer Edgar Dobie and cast member Jessica Frances Dukes. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage

Performance Schedule:
Fri 2/6/15 8:00PM
Sat 2/7/15 8:00PM
Sun 2/8/15 2:00PM
Sun 2/8/15 7:30PM
Tue 2/10/15 7:30PM
Wed 2/11/15 7:30PM
Fri 2/13/15 8:00PM
Sat 2/14/15 2:00PM
Sat 2/14/15 8:00PM
Sun 2/15/15 2:00PM
Sun 2/15/15 7:30PM
Tue 2/17/15 7:30PM
Wed 2/18/15 12:00PM
Wed 2/18/15 7:30PM
Thu 2/19/15 8:00PM
Fri 2/20/15 8:00PM
Sat 2/21/15 8:00PM
Sun 2/22/15 2:00PM
Sun 2/22/15 7:30PM
Tue 2/24/15 12:00PM
Tue 2/24/15 7:30PM
Wed 2/25/15 7:30PM
Thu 2/26/15 8:00PM
Fri 2/27/15 8:00PM
Sat 2/28/15 2:00PM
Sat 2/28/15 8:00PM
Sun 3/1/15 6:00PM
Tue 3/3/15 7:30PM
Wed 3/4/15 12:00PM
Wed 3/4/15 7:30PM
Thu 3/5/15 8:00PM
Fri 3/6/15 8:00PM
Sat 3/7/15 2:00PM
Sat 3/7/15 8:00PM
Sun 3/8/15 7:30PM
Click here to purchase tickets.

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Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang Photo by GK

Lia Chang Photo by GK

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, and made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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