Returning to the Faculty of High-quality Arts on Howard’s campus introduced again a flood of wealthy reminiscences of my encounters with what we known as the “High-quality Arts Freaks” again within the day. And ingesting within the collage of well-known graduates showcased within the foyer corresponding to Chadwick Boseman, after whom the constructing is now named, Taraji P. Henson, Division Chair Nikkole Salter, and the newly appointed Dean Phylicia Rashad introduced full circle the division’s energy to groom and produce world-class expertise.
August Wilson’s Seven Guitars supplied Howard’s Division of Theatre Arts with its newest alternative to showcase an abundance of recent expertise together with Director Jeff Kirkman III, a 2013 HU graduate with a BFA in performing, who’s at present serving with Baltimore Heart Stage’s creative producing group, the place he launched his directing profession as an assistant director in The Raisin Cycle (A Raisin within the Solar by Lorraine Hansberry, Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris, and Beneatha’s Place by Kwame Kwei-Armah).
After I requested Jeff what impressed him to tackle this August Wilson basic, he mentioned, “August Wilson’s play Jitney is what bought me curious about theater, and a monologue from that very same play allowed me to be admitted into the Division of Theatre Arts. Directing Seven Guitars provides one other level to the circle as a result of this manufacturing is the primary post-pandemic alternative to get the scholars within the theatre arts division again on stage. I’m honored to be again at Howard and lead the scholars on this manufacturing.”
And a outstanding solid of younger school college students with previous souls was chosen to fill the well-traveled sneakers of seven road-weary musicians and their loved-starved “different halves,” from Mississippi to Chicago and Pittsburgh and again.
The musical undercurrent is pushed by the formidable desires of Blues singer Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton, performed by Shawn Smith, who after serving time on a trumped-up cost, needs to get his guitar out of the pawn store and return to Chicago, together with his facet males harmonica participant Canewell, performed by Kah’lil Hicks-Jumper, and Crimson Carter, a clean trash-talking, pistol-packing gangster, performed with stable road creds by Matthew Margerum.
However Seven Guitars is as a lot concerning the girls in Floyd’s life as concerning the music. And right here is the place the southern undercurrent of Mississippi bubbles to the floor and explodes with Louise, the broken-hearted boarding home matron, performed by Mississippi native Ahdis Beruk, opening the play with the sultry tune of “Strive My Cabbage.” She and her equally love-starved pal Vera, performed by Mya Hunter, who was deserted by Floyd on his final journey to Pittsburgh, hearken to loopy rooster sandwich maker Hedley, performed to a psychotic twist by Julius Shanks II, as he foreshadows the funeral of Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton.
The ultimate ingredient is supplied by the late arrival of Ruby, Louise’s foot-loose and fancy niece from Chicago, performed by Madeline Phillips, a senior performing main from Meridian, Mississippi, who completes the genuine southern taste of the coed solid, who collectively ship an genuine tackle mature mid-life characters performed within the authentic Broadway manufacturing by stage and movie veterans Viola Davis as Vera, Keith David as Floyd, and Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Canewell.
August Wilson’s Seven Guitars represents these seven characters’ final probability at fame, fortune, and love in post-WWII Pittsburgh, and performs on Wilson’s recurrent themes of the violent and soul-crushing trauma of jail and white exploitation of Black males represented by the symbolic slaughter and hatred of the Rooster, as Floyd’s blind ambition results in a tragic and bitter ending.
The artistic group was led by Director Jeff Kirkman III, supported by design group members Harlan Penn and Gregory Jackson (set); Professor Benny Gomes (lighting); Jason Jones (sound); and Professor Frankie Bethea, who coordinated an 18-member costume group of scholars that nailed the felt-hat, zoot-suit-with-vest, and gold-watch-chain-wearing kinds of Nineteen Forties Black males in addition to the slithering but refined below-the-knees costume kinds of city Black girls of the interval.
The manufacturing additionally gave 13 pupil members of the run crew — 5 members of the make-up and hair crew, 2 set designers, and a behind-the-scenes assortment of one other 2 pupil stage managers and a struggle choreographer and advertising group — a chance to earn greater than school credit.
In true collaborative vogue, the artistic group included Professors Hammond, the dramaturg; Professor Jackson, technical course; and Professor Frankie Bethea, costume design.
Operating Time: Two hours half-hour, together with a 15-minute intermission.
Seven Guitars performed November 3 to six, 2022, offered at Howard College by the Chadwick A. Boseman Faculty of High-quality Arts Division of Theatre Arts performing within the intimate 50-seat Al Freeman Jr. Environmental Theatre Area. Initially offered on the Nationwide Playwright’s Convention of The Eugene O’Neill Theatre Heart.