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Release: June 18, 1999

Iowa Summer Rep's August Wilson festival continues with 'Fences'

(NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: Kachingwe is pronounced kah-CHING-way.)

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa Summer Rep '99, "Out of the Blues: an August Wilson Festival," will continue with the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama "Fences," directed by UI alumnus Michael T. Kachingwe July 6-25 in Theatre B of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Performances will be at 8 p.m. July 6-11, 13 and 14; at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday, July 18; and at 8 p.m. July 21 and 25.

"Fences" portrays the frustrations of Troy Maxson, a former Negro-league baseball player who had to settle for being a garbage man long before Jackie Robinson broke the major-league color line. His hard-working strength and pride support his family during the early days of the civil rights movement in 1957 but the changing times and his own unrealized potential make him distrust the opportunity offered his son when a nearby college recruits him to play football.

Troy's own dignity has come at a price he can't allow his son to pay. His bitter humor and disappointments have him constructing literal and figurative fences that restrict every member of the family.

"'Fences' leaves no doubt that Mr. Wilson is a major writer," writes Frank Rich of the New York Times. "He combines a poet's ear for vernacular with a robust sense of humor, a sure instinct for crackling dramatic incident and a passionate commitment to a great subject."

"I don't write for black people or white people; I write about the black experience in America." Wilson has commented. "And contained within that experience, because it is a human experience, are all the universalities. I am surprised when people come up to me and say, well, 'Fences' is universal. Of course it is! They say that as though universals existed outside of black life."

"Fences" is part of Wilson's projected cycle of 10 plays that look at a central issue confronting blacks in each decade of the 20th century. Each of the plays -- "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," "Fences," "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," "The Piano Lesson," "Two Trains Running" and "Seven Guitars" -- explores how black characters, cut off from their African roots, become victims of racism and economic oppression.

Wilson has built one of the most successful careers in contemporary American theater -- including two Pulitzer Prizes and a Tony Award. He has been dubbed the "bard of Black America" for poetic plays that probe the roots and manifestations of the African-American experience.

"We have here some of the finest dramatic writing of this century, and it's a pleasure and a privilege to be working on it," says Eric Forsythe, the UI department of theatre arts faculty

member who is the artistic director of Iowa Summer Rep. "Each play chronicles life in a different decade of the century, and each has its share of humor, music, human resilience and faith. Wilson is a powerhouse."

Kachingwe, who is also acting in both "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" for Iowa Summer Rep, is now a faculty member at Northern Illinois University and a regular on the Chicago theater scene.

The Iowa Summer Rep production of "Fences" features scenic design by Vicky Grube, costume design by Kaoime Malloy, lighting design by Bryon Winn, musical direction/sound design by Mark Bruckner, and fight choreography by Kachingwe.

For many seasons Iowa Summer Rep has pursued a unique focus in American summer theater -- making each season a festival of plays by a single contemporary playwright. But the 1999 season also offers something new: For the first time Iowa Summer Rep has become an Actor's Equity Company, elevating its status as a professional theater company.

Consistent with a popular Iowa Summer Rep tradition, theatergoers may dine beginning at
6 p.m. on the Theatre Building plaza before each evening performance, on food prepared by the Iowa Memorial Union food service to match the theme of the summer.

This season, at Aunt Mabie's Backporch Diner, the menu will feature versions of traditional African-American fare, including black-eyed peas, succotash, catfish, greens and peach cobbler. Reservations are recommended by calling 319-335-3105. No credit cards are accepted for dinner items.

Tickets to "Fences" are $16 ($12 for senior citizens, and $8 for UI students and children). Tickets are available in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be available at the Theatre Building box office one hour before curtain time.

Tickets are also available at a substantial discount as part of an Iowa Summer Rep season subscription. Other Wilson plays in the festival are the musical drama "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and "Joe Turner's Come and Gone." Group rates are also available. An Iowa Summer Rep brochure, with complete information about productions and performance dates, is available from the Hancher box office or from the UI department of theatre arts, 319-335-2700.

The University of Iowa Community Credit Union is the corporate sponsor of Iowa Summer Rep.

Hancher summer box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays. From the local calling area or outside Iowa, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance within Iowa and western Illinois is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty

and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

"Fences" contains material of an adult nature. Potential audience members who are concerned about whether it is appropriate for them should contact the theater department for additional information.