The complete August Wilson

CRITIC'S CORNER

Theater

October 05, 2006|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,sun theater critic

Washington's Kennedy Center will be the first theater to present August Wilson's monumental 10-play cycle in its entirety. "August Wilson's 20th Century," a monthlong event, will take place in spring 2008. It will feature three staged readings of each play in the decade-by-decade chronicle of African-American life in the last century.

"It's one piece of work in a sense," Michael M. Kaiser, Kennedy Center president, said yesterday of the cycle, which will be presented chronologically. "[It] does have a through-line." Wilson, who died Oct. 2, 2005, won Pulitzer Prizes for two of the plays: The Piano Lesson and Fences.

One of the leading Wilson interpreters, Kenny Leon, has been named artistic director of "Wilson's 20th Century." "He won't direct all of [the plays], but he'll make sure there really is a continuity," Kaiser said. Leon - who began his career as a directing fellow at Center Stage - has directed nine of the 10 plays, including the Broadway-bound Radio Golf, which was produced at the theater in March.

Explaining that many in the theater community have been trying to figure out how to mount the complete series, Kaiser credited the decision to present readings (with costumes, sets and lighting) to Max Woodward, the center's vice president for theater.

"You can't do fully staged productions and just do them for a few nights and drop them," Kaiser said. "We chose this methodology so that someone who comes to all of them will actually have this remarkable impact of the whole cycle." The schedule will permit theatergoers to take in three plays over a weekend.

Although casting has not been announced, Kaiser hopes to include some of the stars associated with Wilson's work. "There's a lot of possibility because the time commitment for any one part is not substantial," he said.

Beyond the Stage

As part of Free Fall, Center Stage is expanding its annual open house to include a street festival. Titled "Backstage @ Centerstage: XL!," the event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in the 700 block of N. Calvert St., which will be closed to traffic to accommodate two outdoor stages. Local bands and a variety of Baltimore theater groups will perform. Food vendors, street performers, a costume photo booth and lessons in makeup and stage combat will be among the offerings, along with a prop and costume sale.

Although the event is free, reservations are requested. Call 410-332-0033 or e-mail back stage@centerstage.org.

Dance contest

In Hairspray, the musical based on John Waters' 1988 movie, teens audition for a TV dance program (modeled after WJZ's Buddy Deane Show). Now the musical is sponsoring it own dance contest. The prize is a chance to appear in the Broadway show for a night.

Contestants should submit a 30-second video of themselves dancing to a Hairspray tune by Wednesday. Finalists will be posted online and voted on by the public. Visit hairspraythemusical.com/dance for details.

j.wynn.rousuck@baltsun.com

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