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Arkansas Repertory Theatre's 'Fences' comes to Fowler Center

Feb. 15, 2007--Arkansas Repertory Theatre continues its 31st season with the award-winning drama "Fences." "Fences" travels from The Rep's MainStage in downtown Little Rock to Jonesboro's Fowler Center for performances on Tuesday, Feb. 20, Wednesday, Feb.21, Friday, Feb. 23, and Saturday, Feb. 24. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased in advance for $8 at the ASU Central Box Office, by calling (870) 972-ASU1, or online at Tickets are $10 at the door. Performances contain adult language and mature themes.

"Fences" is a bold drama inspired by an urban landscape in the 1950s. Permeated with passion, friendship and humor, Fences explores the family ties that bind and the boundaries - real and imagined - we place on ourselves and others as we confront life in an ever-changing world.

From the pen of August Wilson, one of America's most celebrated contemporary playwrights, "Fences" is part of Wilson's ten-play cycle chronicling the 20th century African-American experience. Each work focuses on what he perceived to be the largest issue to confront Blacks in the decade each play addresses. He completed Radio Golf, the tenth play in the monumental series, shortly before his death in 2005. Other titles in the series include "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,"  "The Piano Lesson," and "Joe Turner's Come and Gone."

Debuting on Broadway 20 years ago this March, "Fences" garnered a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and four Tony Awards, including Best Play in 1987. (In 1990, Wilson also received the Pulitzer for "The Piano Lesson," which The Rep produced in 2003.) "Fences" has been called Wilson's most popular work. Unique among the plays in the cycle, "Fences" focuses on a pivotal character, Troy Maxson, a former star of the Negro Baseball Leagues but now a disillusioned and cynical garbage collector. Maxson strives to keep his family intact while battling his troublesome past and stubborn pride. His relationship with his second wife Rose, his son Cory, and a newborn child are integral to how he has survived in the past, yet how he must be changed by the future. Troy has always fought to keep what he had; on the brink of a new era in civil rights, Troy's inability to embrace change may alienate him forever from the power he seeks to attain.

Rep newcomer Gerard Catus portrays Troy Maxson, a man seeking acceptance on his own terms. Winner of two New York AUDELCO Awards, for Best Actor in a Drama and Best Ensemble Performance, Catus has appeared in such stageworks as "Driving Miss Daisy,"  "A Raisin in the Sun," and "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill."

Another veteran of stage and television, actress Judyann Elder plays Rose, Troy's wife. A founding acting member of the Tony Award-winning Negro Ensemble Company, Elder made her Broadway debut as Coretta Scott King opposite Billy Dee Williams in "I Have A Dream" and has extensive television credits, including recurring roles on "Martin" and "Murphy Brown."

Little Rock's own Lawrence Hamilton plays Troy's brother Gabriel, whose anticipation of meeting St. Peter balances his near-fatal injuries from World War II. Hamilton, an inductee into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame and the director of Choral Activities at Philander Smith College, holds numerous Broadway credits. At The Rep, he appeared in the 2003 production of "The Piano Lesson" as Whining Boy, created "Souvenir: An Evening of Song," and directed the 2006 production of "Crowns."

The role of Raynell, Troy's daughter, is played by two Arkansas youngsters, Nia Simone Jackson and Kharlissa Lovelace. Wendell B. Franklin and Yaegel Welch play Lyons and Cory, Troy's sons. Lawrence Evans, returning after his Rep debut as Corporal Bernard Cobb in "A Soldier's Play," performs as Bono, Troy's co-worker and best friend.

Gilbert McCauley returns to The Rep to direct on the MainStage for a third time, previously leading The Rep's productions of "The Piano Lesson" and "A Soldier's Play." Presently an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, McCauley hails from Missouri, where he worked with the acclaimed Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. He has also directed works Off Broadway and at such regional theatres as Arena Stage, Goodman Theatre, Old Globe Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Playwrights Horizons, and Seattle Repertory Theatre, as well as the National Theatre of Ghana.

The Rep's design team for "Fences" includes Rep resident set designer and technical director Mike Nichols, sound designer M. Jason Pruzin, Olivia Koach on costumes, and properties director Linda Kwallek. Lighting is created by William Marshall, assistant professor in scenic design at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, making his Rep debut. As was August Wilson, the design elements are inspired by the Pittsburgh landscape, the works of artist Romare Bearden, and the music of legendary blues musicians.


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