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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

Brand New Sheriff rolling with August Wilson stage classic ‘Jitney’
Season kicks off May 9-18 at Duke Energy Theater
 
Published Thursday, May 2, 2019 10:46 am
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | J. SWEAT NWAKERENDU
Jonathan Caldwell, left, and  Krystal Gardner in Brand New Sheriff Production’s rendition of August Wilson’s “Jitney.”

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Brand New Sheriff Productions closes its 2018-19 season with an August Wilson classic.


“Jitney,” the company’s fourth production of the season, runs at Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square May 9-18. The final dress rehearsal on May 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Duke Energy Theater also serves as a fundraiser for Safe Alliance. The performance is free, but BNS is asking attendees to bring a personal care item, such as deodorant or toothpaste, which Safe Alliance will provide to domestic violence survivors.


“Jitney” is BNS’s second Wilson work, as “Two Trains” ran earlier this year.


BNS Productions Founder and Artistic Director Rory Sheriff gravitates to the way Wilson words the experience of black men.


“My very first introduction to August Wilson was ‘The Piano Lesson,’ and I fell in love with those characters,” Sheriff said of the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. “There is something about black men relating to each other, just everyday conversations with each other, and struggling together. There is something about that that fascinates me, just that whole struggle, and how we made it through those times.”


While Wilson’s work weaves a web of Pittsburgh across decades, his themes apply beyond the Steel City.


“He is the only playwright who wrote a piece for every decade, around the early 1900s,” said Sheriff, a native of Reading, Pennsylvania. “He covers the black experience in 10 decades, which is fascinating. The brother is amazing, and he is a genius.”


“Jitney” takes place in 1977 in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. John Price portrays protagonist Jim Becker, proprietor of a jitney car service—think pre-app ride share. Becker’s office for his informal taxi dispatch, a community gathering space, faces redevelopment as the city has identified the site as prime real estate.


Price played Becker in BNS Productions’ first itineration of “Jitney.” Sheriff asked him to resume the role once more, even though Price now calls Tampa, Florida home.


“I was like, ‘John, what is it going to take for you to come back and perform?’” Sheriff said. “He was like, ‘I don’t know. I’m really going to need a place to stay.’ I said, ‘well I’ve got a guest bedroom.’”


That was all it took.


Meet the rest of the cast:


Krystal Gardner as Rena


Jonathan Caldwell as Youngblood


Quentin Talley and Frank FaCheaux as Philmore


Graham Williams as Booster


Sultan Omar ElAmin as Fielding


Devin Clark as Shealy


Tim Bradley as Turnbo


Dominic Weaver as Doub


On the Net:


www.blumenthalarts.org/events/detail/jitney-2


Tickets are $28.

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