Centerstage back with ‘Fences’ next month

Xavier Smith • Updated Sep 1, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Centerstage Theatre Co. will return with its latest production next month and look to build on early success of previous productions. 

The company will premiere “Fences,” a Pulitzer and Tony award-winning Broadway production, Sept. 16-25. August Wilson wrote the production, which has been around for about 30 years, while Centerstage founder Mitchell Vantrease will direct the play. 

“Fences” is set in 1950s Pittsburgh and centers on African-American garbage collector Troy Maxson and his struggles with everyday life and his family. James Earl Jones originally starred as Maxson, followed by Denzel Washington in 2010. Washington and lead actress Viola Davis received Tony awards for their performances. 

“This play examines racism, but the big thing is family struggle and conflict with one another. Those are the main themes, and in 2016, those are still two things that we struggle with,” Vantrease said. 

Ethan Jones will take on the role as Maxson for the Centerstage production. Jones starred as Walter Lee Young on the company’s production of “Raisin’ in the Sun” earlier this year. 

The cast also includes Shawna Rayford as Rose Maxson; Antonio Hall as Jim Bono, Craig-Anthony Tibbs as Cory Maxson; Thomas Tapley as Lyons Maxson; Shondell McFall as Gabriel Maxson and Haven Manning as Raynell. 

Vantrease said the cast, which consists of mostly Wilson County natives, has surprised him with their performance up to this point.

“They blew me out of the water [Tuesday] night. They took me to places I didn’t know they could go because it’s a very intense drama,” said Vantrease, noting three cast members are making their acting debuts. 

“I’m excited about this because it will give people a chance to be exposed to August Wilson, who is the only African-American with a Broadway theatre named in his honor. Most people probably know his ‘The Piano Lesson,’ but he is one of the great people in theatre,” Vantrease said. 

The production will take the stage Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at 312 E. Market St. Tickets are available at brownpapertickets.com and are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors. 

“Toward the end of the year, a film version with Denzel and Viola will come out, so people have the opportunity to see a live production from us and get to know this story,” Vantrease said.

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