Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Opening Night Photos: Brandon J. Dirden helmed SEVEN GUITARS at Two River Theater featuring Jason Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Kevin Mambo, Christina Acosta Robinson, Brian D. Coats, Charlie Hudson III and Brittany Bellizeare

Opening night of Two River Theater's Seven Guitars, directed by Brandon J. Dirden in Red Bank, NJ on September 18, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Opening night of Two River Theater’s Seven Guitars, directed by Brandon J. Dirden in Red Bank, NJ on September 18, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Seven Guitars director Brandon J. Dirden, Two River Theater Artistic Director John Dias. Photo by Lia Chang

Seven Guitars director Brandon J. Dirden, Two River Theater Artistic Director John Dias. Photo by Lia Chang

Award-winning actor Brandon J. Dirden (All the Way, The Americans) made his directorial debut with a beautifully realized production of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars at Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ., celebrating a glorious opening on September 18th.

The cast of Seven Guitars including Jason Dirden (A Raisin in the SunFences) as Canewell, Crystal A. Dickinson (You Can’t Take It With YouClybourne Park) as Louise, Kevin Mambo as Floyd Barton, Christina Acosta Robinson as Vera, Brian D. Coats as Hedley, Charlie Hudson III (A Raisin in the Sun) as Red Carter and Brittany Bellizeare as Ruby, enjoyed a standing ovation at their curtain call.

Charlie Hudson III, Jason Dirden, Kevin Mambo, Crystal Dickinson, Brandon J. Dirden, Christina Acosta Robinson, Brittany Bellizeare, Brian D. Coats. Photo by Lia Chang

Charlie Hudson III, Jason Dirden, Kevin Mambo, Crystal Dickinson, Brandon J. Dirden, Christina Acosta Robinson, Brittany Bellizeare, Brian D. Coats. Photo by Lia Chang

Seven Guitars is Wilson’s 1940s play in his 10-play cycle exploring the African-American experience in each decade of the 20th century. Set in the Pittsburgh’s Hill District in 1948, Seven Guitars tells the story of Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton, played at Two River by Kevin Mambo (Fela!), a blues guitarist who sits on the edge of stardom.

The actors use every inch of scenic designer Michael Carnahan’s lush and elaborate set. The dilapidated, multi-level house and the backyard it sits on, capture not only the time period but also elevate the emotional tone of each individual character in the play.

Seven Guitars cast members Brian D. Coats, Charlie Hudson III, Jason Dirden, Christina Acosta Robinson, Kevin Mambo, Crystal Dickinson and Brittany Bellizeare with director Brandon J. Dirden at the opening night party of Two River Theater's Seven Guitars in Red Bank, NJ on September 18, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Seven Guitars cast members Brian D. Coats, Charlie Hudson III, Jason Dirden, Christina Acosta Robinson, Kevin Mambo, Crystal Dickinson and Brittany Bellizeare with director Brandon J. Dirden at the opening night party of Two River Theater’s Seven Guitars in Red Bank, NJ on September 18, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

During rehearsals, wig designer Erin Hicks sat back and studied each actor and designed their respective wigs based on the personalities they were creating. The result is a wig design that echoes the 1940’s and that fits each individual actor to a tee. Once again, Karen Perry masterfully brings us into the time period of the 1940’s with color and meticulous attention to detail and style. In a scene in which all of the characters don their Sunday best to attend a Mother’s Day concert, Dirden has each character enter one at a time, with the result being a veritable catwalk to rival any fashion show. Each outfit outdoes the one before it and the scene has Karen Perry written all over it. With  lighting by Driscoll Otto,  sound by David Margolin Lawson and original music by Jason Moran.

The full company of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars at Two River Theater. From left: Charlie Hudson III (Red Carter), Brittany Bellizeare (Ruby), Crystal A. Dickinson (Louise), Jason Dirden (Canewell), Kevin Mambo (Floyd Barton), Christina Acosta Robinson(Vera), and Brian D. Coats (Hedley) in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

The full company of August Wilson’s Seven Guitars at Two River Theater. From left: Charlie Hudson III (Red Carter), Brittany Bellizeare (Ruby), Crystal A. Dickinson (Louise), Jason Dirden (Canewell), Kevin Mambo (Floyd Barton), Christina Acosta Robinson(Vera), and Brian D. Coats (Hedley) in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

The fight direction is by Unkle Dave’s Fight-House, the casting is by Heidi Griffiths & Kate Murray, and the production stage manager is Laura Wilson.

Jason Dirden, Crystal Dickinson, Brandon J. Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

Jason Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brandon J. Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

Performances will continue through Sunday, October 4 in Two River’s Rechnitz Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ. Ticket prices range from $37 to $65, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets are available for every performance; $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available from tworivertheater.org or 732.345.1400.

Inside Two River
Inside Two River is a series of events specially curated for each Two River Theater production. For more information or to reserve seats, patrons should visit tworivertheater.org or call 732.345.1400.

Jason Dirden, Mrs. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brandon J. Dirden, Willie Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

Jason Dirden, Mrs. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brandon J. Dirden, Willie Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

Andre Blake, Kevin Mambo, Keith Johnston and Keith Josef Adkins. Photo by Lia Chang

Andre Blake, Kevin Mambo, Keith Johnston and Keith Josef Adkins. Photo by Lia Chang

Ayo Oneke Cummings, Crystal A. Dickinson, Kaliswa Brewster, Toccarra Cash, Brittany Bellizeare, Lakisha May. Photo by Lia Chang

Ayo Oneke Cummings, Crystal A. Dickinson, Kaliswa Brewster, Toccarra Cash, Brittany Bellizeare, Lakisha May. Photo by Lia Chang

Audience Extras
Before Play and Lobby Display
Audiences will learn about August Wilson in Two River’s Before Play lecture series, which takes place 45 minutes prior to every performance, and Lobby Display.

Post-Play Conversations
Discussions with the cast and a member of Two River’s Artistic staff will take place on Wednesday, September 23 at 7 pm; Sunday, September 27 at 3pm; and Wednesday, September 30 at 1pm.

An audio-described performance is scheduled for Wednesday, September 30 at 1pm, and an open-captioned performance is scheduled for Saturday, October 3 at 3pm. Tickets are available at a discounted rate of $25 for patrons using these services. To reserve wheelchair-accessible seating or tickets to a performance listed above, patrons should call 732.345.1400 or e-mail boxoffice@trtc.org.

Calendar
Wednesday, September 23 at 1pm and 7pm
Thursday, September 24 at 10 am (student matinee) and 8pm
Friday, September 25 at 8pm
Saturday, September 26 at 3pm and 8pm
Sunday, September 27 at 3pm
Wednesday, September 30 at 1pm and 7pm
Thursday, October 1 at 10 am (student matinee) and 8pm
Friday, October 2 at 8pm
Saturday, October 3 at 3pm and 8pm
Sunday, October 4 at 3pm

Terria Joseph, Michael Cumptsy, Nikiya Mathis, Stacey Sergeant and Elain Graham. Photo by Lia Chang

Terria Joseph, Michael Cumptsy, Nikiya Mathis, Stacey Sergeant and Elain Graham. Photo by Lia Chang

Sponsorship
The lead production sponsor for Seven Guitars is Springpoint Senior Living Foundation at The Atrium at Navesink Harbor. Inside Two River is sponsored by The William T. Morris Foundation. The Before Play series is sponsored by Zager Fuchs, PC.

Two River Theater is supported in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, Monmouth University, The Shubert Foundation, The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Meridian Health/Riverview Medical Center, The Stone Foundation of New Jersey, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Investors Bank, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, Springpoint Senior Living Foundation at the Atrium at Navesink Harbor, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Wells Fargo, William T. Morris Foundation, US Trust, Brookdale Community College, and many other generous foundations, corporations and individuals.

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, creates great American theater performed by award-winning artists. We produce American and world masterpieces, and new plays and musicals. Two River Theater offers new-play commissions and artistic development activities that support the most adventurous artists in the American theater; invites its audience to be part of the creative process through readings and open rehearsals; and cultivates students and young people to participate in innovative arts-education programs and become a new generation of theatergoers. Founded in 1994 by Joan and Dr. Robert M. Rechnitz, Two River Theater is easily accessible by car, train, or bus, with great restaurants and shopping within walking distance of the theater. For more information, visit tworivertheater.org or call 732.345.1400.

In the costume shop with Karen Perry.

Brandon J. Dirden and Lia Chang. Photo by GK

Brandon J. Dirden and Lia Chang. Photo by GK

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in FebOne1960.com Blog, Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Related articles:
Brittany Bellizeare, Brian D. Coats, Crystal A. Dickinson, Jason Dirden, Charlie Hudson III, Kevin Mambo and Christina Acosta Robinson in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars at Two River Theater
Photos: In Rehearsal with Seven Guitars’ Director Brandon J. Dirden at Two River Theater
Multimedia: In the Costume Shop with Seven Guitars’ costume designer Karen Perry at Two River Theater
Brandon J. Dirden makes directorial debut with August Wilson’s Seven Guitars at Two River Theater, September 12 – October 4
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Crafting a Career

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