Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Meet Your "Jitney" Drivers

Jitney, which opens on the Segerstrom stage this month, is one of a series of plays by August Wilson known as the Pittsburgh Cycle. Each of the plays depicts the African-American experience during a different decade of the 20th century. While several of the actors in this all-star cast are new to SCR, nearly all of them previously have appeared in one of Wilson’s plays.

Charlie Robinson, who plays jitney station owner Becker, appeared here at SCR in Fences, Wilson’s play set in the 1950s, along with Larry Bates, who plays Vietnam War vet Youngblood, and Gregg Daniel, who plays regular jitney passenger Philmore. Becker’s son, Booster, is played by Montae Russell, who has performed all but one of the plays in the Pittsburgh Cycle, and appeared in staged readings of Wilson’s work at The Kennedy Center. Ellis E. Williams, who plays gossipy jitney driver Turnbo, appeared in Wilson’s final play, Radio Golf, also at The Kennedy Center, while Kristy Johnson, who plays Youngblood’s girlfriend, Rena, appeared in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Wilson’s ‘20s-era play, at Court Theatre. Rolando Boyce, who plays Shealy, a numbers-taker who uses the jitney station as his base, appeared in Fences at Court Theatre.

Rounding out the cast are newcomers David McKnight, who plays Fielding, a longtime driver with a few demons of his own to deal with, and James A Watson, Jr., who appears as Doub, a level-headed Korean War veteran.  McKnight is a theatre veteran who won an NAACP Theatre Award for his role in Soljers at West End Playhouse, while Watson brings with him a long film and television resume, plus several Emmy and NAACP Image Awards.

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