Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Keith Randolph Smith, Ray Anthony Thomas, Francois Battiste, Amari Cheatom, Brian D. Coats, Steven Anthony Jones and Nija Okoro Set for August Wilson’s JITNEY National Tour; Arena Stage at September 13 -October 20

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is presenting August Wilson’s Jitney. Tony Award-winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson directs his 2017 Broadway production – recipient of the Tony Award for Best Play Revival. Set in the early 1970s, Jitney follows a group of men trying to make a living by driving unlicensed cabs, or jitneys.

Harvy Blanks, Francois Battiste, Ray Anthony Thomas, Nija Okoro, Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Anthony Chisholm, Amari Cheatom, Brian D. Coats, Steven Anthony Jones and Keith Randolph Smith. Photo by Joan Marcus

Cast members in the 2017 Broadway production of Jitney and making their Arena Stage debuts include Harvy Blanks (Roundabout’s Toni Stone, Kennedy Center’s Death of a King’s Horseman, Two River’s Two Trains Running) as Shealy, Tony Award-nominee Anthony Chisholm (Broadway’s Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean, Two Trains Running) as Fielding, Keith Randolph Smith (Broadway’s Fences, King Hedley II, Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, Girl 6) as Doub and Ray Anthony Thomas (Broadway’s The Crucible, Race) as Turnbo.

Also making their Arena debuts are Francois Battiste (Broadway’s Magic/Bird, Bronx Bombers) as Booster, Amari Cheatom (Lincoln Center’s On the Levee, The Public’s The Book of Grace) as Youngblood and Brian D. Coats (Marvel’s Luke Cage, Studio’s Invisible Man) as Philmore. The cast also features Steven Anthony Jones as Becker and Nija Okoro as Rena.

The dramatic story of a Pittsburgh jitney station becomes a symbol of stability as the drivers resist powerful forces while coming to grips with their pasts to fulfill their own hopes and dreams for the future.

This kicks off the national tour of one of Wilson’s great masterpieces. “A joyfully intoxicating celebration!” (The New York Times), Jitney runs September 13 – October 20, 2019 in the Kreeger Theater. The production was produced on Broadway by Manhattan Theatre Club in association with Eric Falkenstein, Ron Simons, John Legend/Mike Jackson and Ken Wirth.

Jitney opens Arena Stage’s August Wilson Festival, celebrating the Pulitzer Prize-winning giant.

“Arena has a long love affair with August Wilson’s work, going all the way back to 1987 and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Wilson is one of our most-produced playwrights, so it felt celebratory to mark our 70th Anniversary Season with a season-long festival highlighting his work and the impact he has on the American theater,” shares Artistic Director Molly Smith. “What a thrill to have Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s award-winning production of Jitney kick off a national tour from Arena to other theaters around America. Each of Wilson’s plays tackle deep human relationships, and Jitney will take us on an emotional journey.”

“There had been nine jewels in August Wilson’s formidable crown; each had changed the landscape of Broadway in their respective seasons,” explains Santiago-Hudson. “Only one jewel was missing. Twenty years after it had taken the country by storm and won the Olivier Award in London, Jitney, the first play of August Wilson’s American Century Cycle, received its Broadway debut. With this Tony Award-winning production, the crown is complete. How amazing that ‘the first was the last’.”

In addition to Santiago-Hudson, the creative team includes Set Designer David Gallo, Costume Designer Toni-Leslie James, Lighting Designer Jane Cox, Co-Sound Designers Darron L West and Charles Coes, Original Music by Bill Sims Jr. and Fight Director Thomas Schall.

August Wilson (Playwright)’s plays include Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson (Pulitzer Prize winner), Seven Guitars, Fences (Pulitzer Prize winner, Tony Award winner), Two Trains Running, Jitney (Oliver Award winner), King Hedley II and Radio Golf. In 2003, he made his stage debut in his one-man show, How I Learned What I Learned. He received an Emmy Award nomination for his screenplay The Piano Lesson. Other works include The Janitor, Recycle, The Coldest Day of the Year, Malcolm X, The Homecoming and the musical satire Black Bart and the Sacred Hills. Other awards include eight New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, Rockefeller and Guggenheim Fellowships in Playwriting, a Whiting Writers Award, 2003 Heinz Award, 1999 National Humanities Medal and induction into the Theater Hall of Fame.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson (Director) directed the Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Jitney which garnered several awards including the Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama League and the NY Drama Critics Circle Awards, along with six Tony nominations. Mr. Santiago-Hudson won a Tony Award as featured actor for his performance in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars and later went on to direct the play himself to critical acclaim. Other directing credits include: The Piano Lesson, Skeleton Crew, Othello, Gem of the Ocean, Paradise Blue, My Children My Africa, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Cabin in the Sky, The Happiest Song Plays Last, Two Trains Running, Things of Dry Hours, The First Breeze of Summer and Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine, among many others. His autobiographical play Lackawanna Blues won several awards, including two OBIE Awards and a Helen Hayes Award, and went on to be an HBO movie receiving the NAACP Image Award, Humanitas Prize, The Christopher Award and Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.

Tickets for Jitney are $41-95, subject to change and based on availability, plus applicable fees. Tickets may be purchased online at arenastage.org, by phone at 202-488-3300 or at the Sales Office at 1101 Sixth Street, SW, D.C.

Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers,  musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2019 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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