For many actors, working on an August Wilson play is a dream come true, a rite of passage, a profound honor. Read on to learn how members of this cast feel about performing Wilson’s work.
To Kelvin Roston, Jr. (Hedley), working on August Wilson is akin to working on Shakespeare — it requires a skill set that not every actor has. Roston observes that for black male actors, “we see an August Wilson play and see ourselves, our family members, our friends.” He says that watching Wilson’s plays exposed him to characters like Floyd Barton (Seven Guitars), Youngblood (Jitney), and Hedley (King Hedley II) and made him excited about the prospect of aging into these roles. “August Wilson has written us from the inside, unfiltered. He not only shows who we are, but also the why. It’s very specific; no matter the year it’s set, it remains relevant.”
Performing in an August Wilson play has been a lifelong goal of Kierra Bunch (Tonya). “Tackling King Hedley and being a part of this experience is exciting,” she says. “It’s exciting to actually get an opportunity to step into the work of a true visionary and great storyteller of our times. Wilson writes about the human condition and anyone can find their own story in this play.”
“We see an August Wilson play and see ourselves, our family members, our friends.”
Dexter Zollicoffer (Stool Pigeon) feels that acting in an August Wilson play is an artistic rite of passage. “When working on Wilson, you feel like you’re paying homage to the struggles and joys of being black in America,” he says. Dexter thinks that “by exploring the nuances of this specific community in 1985, it better prepares us for the racial and cultural dynamics at play today.”
One of the things that excites Ronald L. Conner (Mister) most about being in this play is the opportunity to showcase an unconventional family bound by blood, friendship, and proximity. “Working on an August Wilson play means an opportunity to give voice to the marginalized, working class of America,” he reflects. “It means I get to tell a universal story through a culturally specific lens.” To Ronald, the themes and issues raised in King Hedley II are quite timely. “Audiences need to see this play now, because it is ‘now!’”
Photo: A.C. Smith, Kelvin Roston, Jr., and TayLar in a promotional photo for KING HEDLEY II. (Mazza)