Fences Early web-35
“ranney” as Troy Maxson and in Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of August Wilson’s “Fences”
Photo credit: Mikki Schaffner Photography

The work of August Wilson, one of America's most celebrated playwrights, is coming to town. In fact, it's already here with his award-winning “Fences,” on stage now at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's Otto M. Budig Theater.

Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, "Fences" centers on the life of Troy Maxson, a garbage man. After a career of hitting a baseball over fences, Troy is building a fence around his home to protect his family from the racism that crushed his dream. But the same bitterness that drives him to build his fence blinds him to his son’s opportunity to earn a college football scholarship. Believing that his talented son will be exploited, Troy refuses to sign the permission papers for his son to play football in high school. A new generation, with hopes of overcoming the past, confronts an older generation still trapped by history.

August Wilson’s greatest achievement was his work Century Cycle — ten plays, one for each decade of the 20th century, that dramatized the long and continuing struggle of African-Americans against racial hatred and injustice. Written in 1985, "Fences" is the sixth play in the Cycle. It is often referred to as Wilson’s best play, and it won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play.

August Wilson was adept at weaving a narrative that can build understanding and bridge cultural divides. Nowhere was that more clear than in "Fences." In his own words: “By looking at Troy’s life, white people find out that the content of this black garbageman's life is affected by the same things — love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty. Recognizing that these things are as much part of his life as theirs can affect how they think about and deal with black people in their lives.”

Next month, you'll have another opportunity to see how August Wilson's Century Cycle helps bridge cultural divides, as Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park stages "Two Trains Running."