Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Production Photos: André De Shields, Bowman Wright, E. Faye Butler, KenYatta Rogers, Jessica Frances Dukes and Michael Anthony Williams in Arena Stage’s King Hedley II through March 8

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 began previews on February 6th and will continue through 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.

The cast of King Hedley II at Arena Stage (Photo: C. Stanley Photography)

The cast of King Hedley II at Arena Stage (Photo: C. Stanley Photography)

Jessica Frances Dukes as Tonya, King Hedley II (Photo: C. Stanley Photography)

Jessica Frances Dukes as Tonya, King Hedley II (Photo: C. Stanley Photography)

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.

“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.”

 (l-r) KenYatta Rogers as Mister and Bowman Wright as King in King Hedley II at Arena Stage
(Photo: C. Stanley Photography)


(l-r) KenYatta Rogers as Mister and Bowman Wright as King in King Hedley II at Arena Stage
(Photo: C. Stanley Photography)

“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’!”

André De Shields as Stool Pigeon in King Hedley II at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, February 6-March 8, 2015. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

André De Shields as Stool Pigeon in King Hedley II at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, February 6-March 8, 2015. Photo by C. Stanley Photography.

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.

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.

Performance Schedule:
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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cropped-lia-chang_photo-by-carlos-flores-3.jpgLia 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.

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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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