All ten of August Wilson's American Century Cycle plays, set to receive staged readings in front of live studio audiences at the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WNYC and WQXR this fall, will receive a series of exclusive and historic recordings.
The readings will feature a number of award-winning actors who have an extensive history with Wilson's work, including Tony nominee Kenny Leon (Fences), Tony winner Phylicia Rashad (August: Osage County), Tony nominee Michele Shay (Seven Guitars), and Tony-nominated director Marion McClinton (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom), as well as close Wilson collaborators Tony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson (The Piano Lesson) and Tony nominee Stephen McKinley Henderson (Fences), the artistic director and associate artistic director of this project, respectively.
The performances will also feature a number of actors who will be reprising the Wilson roles they have performed onstage, including Tony Award winner Leslie Uggams as Ruby in King Hedley II; Drama Desk and Obie Award winner Anthony Chisholm as Fielding in Jitney and Elder Barlow in Radio Golf; Brandon Dirden in his Obie Award-winning role as Boy Willie in The Piano Lesson; Russell Hornsby as King Hedley in King Hedley II; Emmy Award winner Keith David as Seth Holly in Joe Turner's Come and Gone; Ebony Joann as Ma Rainey in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Canewell in Seven Guitars; John Earl Jelks as Sterling Johnson in Radio Golf; Roslyn Ruff as Berniece in The Piano Lesson, among others. Former Wilson actor Tony Award nominee S. Epatha Merkerson (Come Back, Little Sheba) will take on the role of Bertha in Joe Turner's Come and Gone, along with Wendell Pierce (Radio Golf), who will play Red Carter in Seven Guitars.
Academy Award nominee Tarjai P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Jesse L. Martin (Rent) will make their Wilson debuts among this seasoned company as Molly Cunningham in Joe Turner's Come and Gone and Lyons in Fences, respectively.
Santiago-Hudson and Executive Director Indira Etwaroo have announced that the series of recorded performances will begin with the Wilson's Tony Award-nominated Ma Rainey's Black Bottom on Monday, August 26. Radio Golf will conclude the ten-play cycle on Saturday, September 28.
"It's an extraordinary responsibility to lead this historic undertaking of documenting and preserving for generations to come not just the words, but the sound of August's majestic ode to African-American life in the 20th century," said Santiago-Hudson. "For those of us who had the privilege to work on a Wilson project while he was alive, it was life changing. Stephen [McKinley Henderson] and I are deeply touched that so many who knew and collaborated with Wilson have stepped forward to join us on this extraordinary tribute to our hero. He was a man, a writer, an artist who forever changed the landscape of American theater."