Penumbra Theatre Company, one of the nation's preeminent African American theatres, announces a powerhouse cast for its production of August Wilson's Two Trains Running directed by Lou Bellamy. Two Trains Running opens on the Penumbra stage September 29 and runs through October 30, 2011. Previews are September 27 & 28.
The cast features James T. Alfred as Sterling, James Craven as Memphis, CrystAl Fox as Risa, Abdul Salaam El Razzac as Holloway, Dennis W. Spears as West, Kevin D. West as Wolf and Ahanti Young as Hambone.
Penumbra has produced more of August Wilson's plays than any other theatre in the world and has earned the reputation of being a definitive interpreter of his work. Wilson honed his craft alongside fellow Penumbra Company members, which contributes to the intimate and vital quality of the Wilson plays staged at Penumbra. In a 1996 speech, August Wilson said "[Penumbra's] production of The Piano Lesson would become not only my favorite staging but a model of style and eloquence that would inspire my future work."
With the generous support of Cargill, Penumbra proudly presents Two Trains Running as part of its commitment to stage all ten of August Wilson's plays that chronicle black American life decade by decade. In 2007, Penumbra launched the cycle with The Piano Lesson and Gem of the Ocean. In 2008, the critically acclaimed Fences was produced, followed by Radio Golf in 2009 and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom in 2010. Two Trains Running opens the 2011-2012 season, Penumbra's 35th anniversary.
Two Trains Running is an inspiring story about the protest that changed a nation. It's 1969 and the Hill District is gentrifying, threatening the cultural heart of black Pittsburgh. Slated for demolition is Memphis' diner, the last refuge for a makeshift family of wounded souls who have all but given up. It takes a newcomer, Sterling-a young convict with a heart that lives up to his name-to change the rules of the game. Unknowingly, the regulars take up a fight that carries them headlong into the Civil Rights Movement.
Bellamy said he selected this play for Penumbra's 35th Anniversary Season because the sense of ritual and community are most accessible in this piece - two important themes in Penumbra's history as well. "In Two Trains Running, it's the routines and activities of daily living that knit the community together. And in these seemingly small and nuanced practices, Wilson is able elevate the everyday experience of black Americans in the conduct of their lives to epic proportion," said Bellamy. "It's those same core values that continue to propel Penumbra to present work that authentically reflects African American experiences."
The artistic team for Two Trains Running also includes Martin Gwinup (Sound Designer), Michelle Habeck (Lighting Designer), Mathew J. LeFebvre (Costume Designer), Carra Martinez (Dramaturg/August Wilson Fellow), Amy Reddy (Prop Master), Vicki Smith (Scenic Designer) and Mary K. Winchell (Stage Manager).
Season Presenters: Star Tribune, Minnesota Monthly, Minnesota Public Radio and Comcast
In 1976, as a reaction to the stereotypical depiction of the black ethos, Lou Bellamy founded Penumbra to make art that roared with authenticity through the rich, unrestrained voice of black playwrights and artists. As Minnesota's only professional African American theater, Penumbra has achieved national recognition for its artistic excellence and signature style and has presented 155 productions including 35 world premieres. It contributes over $2 million annually to the local economy, and attracts new talent and media attention from across the country.
The ultimate goal of the Penumbra mission is to make socially responsible art that provokes thought and action around issues of racism and social justice. Penumbra activates its mission through three core programs: the main stage brings artistically excellent stories to life with an unflinching commitment to cultural authenticity; our new play program ensures that the African American experience is preserved by developing uncompromising stories; and, our education programs mobilize the power of art to create social change.
Bellamy continues to earn recognition for his work. Most recent awards include the 2009 Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs Award for Public Leadership; the 2009 induction into The College of Fellows of the American Theatre; 2007 Obie for Best Direction of Two Trains Running at the Signature Theatre; the 2007 National Black Theatre Festival Lloyd Richards Award for Directing; and the 2006 McKnight Distinguished Artist Award.