Following a highly lauded performance at last year’s Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival in August Wilson’s “How I Learned What I Learned”, veteran stage, film, and television actor Tony Todd is all set to return to play the iconic role of Troy Maxson in August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play “Fences”.
With an acting career spanning more than 30 years, the iconic, charismatic actor has amassed an exhaustive list of credits in a wide range of genres. His films include Oliver Stone’s Academy Award-winning Platoon; the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead; the Candyman film franchise; the Final Destination franchise; the Hatchet franchise; Lean on Me with Morgan Freeman; Clint Eastwood’s Bird; Bernard Rose’s fantastic updated adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and a long list of etceteras.
On stage he has received accolades for numerous roles including a coveted Helen Hayes Award nomination for his performance in Athol Fugard’s “The Captain’s Tiger” at the La Jolla Playhouse, Manhattan Theatre Club, and The Kennedy Center; and originating the title role in the world premiere of August Wilson’s “King Hedley II” in Pittsburgh, Boston, and Seattle.
“Fences” will be helmed by director Ryan Quinn, co-founder and artistic director of Esperance Theater Company in New York City. He also serves as a company member with Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. His directing credits include productions of “Twelfth Night”, “Youth and Ambition”; “Macbeth”, “Romeo & Juliet”, and “The Two Noble Kinsman”, to name but a few.
Quinn also had the privilege of sharing a rehearsal room with August Wilson in the spring of 2005 when the playwright brought the final chapter of his ten-play cycle (Radio Golf) for its world premiere at Yale Rep. As an understudy, Quinn ran lines with Anthony Chisholm, received guidance from director Timothy Douglas, and most importantly, sat only a few feet away from the playwright himself, absorbing his transforming language flowing from the company of actors. As a result of having been able to spend time with Wilson, Quinn says that “When I am a bit overwhelmed by the daunting task of bringing one of the greatest plays in the English language to PSF, I try to heed August Wilson’s advice to himself, ‘to be empowered by the ‘chair,’ and sit in the seat of theatre-makers that have come before.'” He went on to say that whilst directing a production of “Fences” in 2022, he would imagine hearing voices from the chairs that have come before: “I hear Oscar Wilde saying, ‘Children begin by loving their parents; after a time, hey judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.’ But then there’s Mr. Wilson’s rebuttal in Fences’ epigraph. He writes, ‘When the sins of our fathers visit us, we do not have to play host. We can banish them with forgiveness; As God, in His Largeness and Laws.’
Also commenting on Tony’s return to the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, Producing Artistic Director, Patrick Mulcahy said, “Tony’s versatility, artistry, and craft as an actor, coupled with his rich experience with August Wilson’s plays, will prove invaluable in plumbing the depths of this force-of-nature leading role … We are so pleased to have an actor of Tony Todd’s caliber leading this cast as we bring this masterwork of the American theatre to life this summer.”
For those unfamiliar with the play, “Fences” is set in 1950s Pittsburgh against the backdrop of a rapidly changing America and depicts the yearnings and struggles of the Maxson family. Troy Maxson, a former home run king of the Negro baseball leagues now supports his family as a garbage collector, and builds fences around a world he has battled his entire life.
A timeless story of fathers and sons, husbands and wives, dreams and realities, Fences is a true American classic.
Ahead of “Fences” preview at 7:30pm on July 27 and 28 followed by the opening night on Friday, July 29 at 7:30pm, SCREAM’s Howard Gorman sat down with Todd who discussed his love stepping onto the stage and how he feels blessed, particularly after the last couple of COVID-tormented year’s, to be able to perform in front of a live audience once again and see people’s reactions first-hand. He also went on to reveal that he has no intention of retiring from film, TV and voiceover acting just yet, and teased a fair few projects he has on the horizon.
The production runs until August 7. Single tickets start at $25 and be purchased online at https://pashakespeare.org/ or by calling the box office at 610.282.WILL .
Words: Howard Gorman