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Stage & Theater
American Stage presents August Wilson’s 2 Trains Running
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Photo by CHAD JACOBS
Starring in American Stage Theatre’s production of “2 Trains Running” are, from left, Wilbert L. Williams Jr., Kim Sullivan, Bryant Bentley, Renata Eastlick, ranney, Alan Bomar Jones and Cranstan Cumberbatch.
ST. PETERSBURG – American Stage Theatre Company kicks off the new year with its production of August Wilson’s ‘2 Trains Running through Feb. 23 in the Raymond James Theatre, 163 Third St. N.

This production of “2 Trains Running” is the seventh installment of the theater company’s ambitious August Wilson Century Cycle.

The play is set in 1969, in the aftermath of the riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Amidst the rise of the black power movement, a young man named Stirling comes to Memphis Lee’s diner where customers have gathered for decades to share their struggles, faith and hopes.

But this diner has been slated for demolition in the city’s new redevelopment plan, and what unfolds is Wilson’s most compassionate and humorous work about lives in transition, evolving social awareness and spirits rising.

Performances are Wednesday through Saturday, 8 p.m. Matinees are Saturday and Sunday, 3 p.m. Tickets start at $39. Call 823-7529 or visit www.americanstage.org.

This will be the third August Wilson play directed by Bob Devin Jones for American Stage. He is a native of Los Angeles and has been a theater worker for more than 25 years. Since 2002, he has worked as a Florida Humanities Road Scholar, presenting Voices from the Harlem Renaissance.

The cast includes Bryant Bentley as Sterling, Cranstan Cumberbatch as Wolf, Renata Eastlick as Risa, Alan Bomar Jones as Holloway, ranney as Hambone, Kim Sullivan as Memphis and Wilbert L. Williams Jr. as West.

Spotlight Series

In addition to the production, American Stage is hosting a Spotlight Series.

American Stage Education will have an event series including a community forum and talkbacks centered around the themes of the August Wilson play, “2 Trains Running.” Thematic content for the community forum is focused on the 50th anniversary year of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Presented by Bayfront Health, the American Stage Spotlight Series will include the following events:

• Spotlight Series Talkback – Sunday, Feb. 9, following the 3 p.m. matinee performance. The cast of “2 Trains Running” will answer moderated questions from the audience. Free and open to patrons.

• Spotlight Series Student Matinees and Talkbacks – Feb. 4, 11 and 18, following the 10 a.m. matinee performances. Additional talkbacks will follow three student matinee performances of “2 Trains Running.” The cast of the production will answer moderated questions from the student audience.

• Spotlight Series Community Forum – Thursday, Feb. 20, 7 to 8:30 p.m. The forum will focus on August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running.” The purpose of the event is to engage citizens – here at the theater and across the community – in a conversation that both illuminates the themes and issues addressed in the production and acts as catalyst for deeper exploration of the social issues society continues to face. This event will offer participants space for debate and discussion. This forum is free and open to the public.

About the playwright

Born on April 27, 1945, August Wilson grew up in the Hill district of Pittsburgh, Pa.

His childhood experiences in this black slum community would later inform his dramatic writings.

In 1984, Wilson was catapulted to the forefront of the American theatre scene with the success of “Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,” produced at Yale and later in New York in 1984. Wilson continued to work in close collaboration with Lloyd Richards of the Yale School of Drama. By the early 1990s, he had established himself as the best-known and most popular African-American playwright.

Wilson also set for himself a daunting task – to write a 10-play cycle that chronicles each decade of the black experience in the 20th century.

Each of Wilson's plays is a chapter in this remarkable cycle of plays and focuses on what Wilson perceives as the largest issue to confront African-Americans in that decade.

Beginning in 2007, American Stage Theater committed to presenting the August Wilson’s Century Cycle.

Following is a summary of the August Wilson’s Century Cycle schedule.

• 2007-08 – “Gem of the Ocean,” set in the 1900s

• 2008-09 – “King Hedley II,” set in the 1980s

• 2009-10 – “Fences,” set in the 1950s

• 2010-11 – “Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,” set in the 1920s

• 2011-12 – “Seven Guitars,” set in the 1940s

• 2012-13 – “The Piano Lesson,” set in the 1930s

• 2013-14 – “Two Trains Running,” set in the 1960s

• 2014-15 – “Radio Golf,” set in the 1990s

• 2015-16 – “Jitney,” set in the 1970s

• 2016-17 – “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” set in the 1910s
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