Washington taking August Wilson’s plays to HBO


Denzel Washington is giving folks more of August Wilson‘s classic material to chew on as he brings the playwright’s American Century Cycle series to HBO via a deal with the cable network.

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis to start in “Fences.’’
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis to start in “Fences.’’

Shadow and Act reports that Washington will serve as a producer of all 10 plays in the series, which portray the 20th-century African-American experience, from the early 1900s to the 1990s. The Oscar winner revealed that the deal will find him producing one play a year for the next 10 years, starting with Wilson’s hit play “Fences.”

The news comes as Washington gears up to direct the film adaptation of “Fences,” which he will star in with Viola Davis, next spring (2016). Washington and Davis both won Tony awards for their performances in the 2010 Broadway production of “Fences,” which was directed by Kenny Leon.

Wilson’s request
The play’s arrival on the big screen concludes years of trying to get a film adaptation of the production.

Shadow and Act referenced a long-standing story on the delay, which attributed it all from Wilson’s insistence that a Black director helm the adaptation.

Wilson later reiterated his stance on the situation, saying that he wasn’t suggesting a Black director be hired because he was Black. Instead, he maintained that it be a Black director who was qualified for the job.

Washington’s production of the American Century Cycle series will be done in collaboration with the August Wilson Estate.

The plays
The 10 plays in the series are as follows.
•1900s “Gem of the Ocean” – A young man from Alabama visits Aunt Ester, a 285-year-old renowned cleanser of souls for help in absolving the guilt he carries from a crime he’s committed.

•1910s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” – Set in Pittsburgh, the story of Seth and Bertha Holly and the migrants who pass through their boardinghouse during the Great Migration of the 1910s.

•1920s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” – Set in Chicago in 1927, the play explores issues of race, art, religion and the historic exploitation of Black recording artists by White producers.

•1930s “The Piano Lesson” – Set in 1936 Pittsburgh, the story of a brother and sister who have different ideas on what to do with the piano they own – keep or sell it.

•1940s “Seven Guitars” – The story of a blues singer just released from prison and ready to right the past year’s wrongs.

•1950s “Fences” – Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, the story of Troy Maxson, a restless trash-collector and former baseball athlete struggling to provide for •his family.

•1960s “Two Trains Running” – The story of a local diner owner who fights to stay open as a municipal project encroaches on his establishment.

•1970s “Jitney” – Set in a worn-down gypsy cab station in Pittsburgh, the story of men hustling to make a living as jitneys — unofficial and unlicensed taxicabs.

•1980s “King Hedley II” – The story of an ex-convict trying to rebuild his life by selling stolen refrigerators so that he can save enough money to buy a video store.

•1990s “Radio Golf” – A powerful African-American politician runs for the highest office of his career, but as he steps into prominence, his plans collide with his past.


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