Season 14 for the Lower Bottom Playaz starts with Two Trains Running by August Wilson. Wilson is one of America’s finest playwrights, his work The American Century Cycle is his signature writ large on the American theaterscape. His unduplicated accomplishment is being paid homage by The Lower Bottom Playaz Inc., the premiere North American Theater Troupe, in Oakland CA . The Playaz are dedicated to the fully staged production of the entire Cycle in chronological order. No troupe on the planet has ever presented the entire Cycle in order of the decades represented. The Playaz are striving to be the first.
They crossed the half way mark in their 13th season with the production of FENCES. The Playaz production of FENCES played to capacity crowds at the African American Museum and Library at Oakland CA. It closed Thanksgiving weekend to a standing room only crowd.
Next up is the seventh play in the series; Two Trains Running is slated to open in late August.The troupe is the oldest North American Theater Troupe in Oakland and has produced works that range from classical Shakespeare with North American African cast, site specific adaptations of Shakespeare, (Ebony & Johnny: A Star Crossed HoodTale, & Mack, A Gangsta Tale), classical Black Theater (Hansberry, Baldwin), to the works of Marvin X Jackmon and Opal Palmer Adisa. Their love affair with Americas Shakespeare August Wilson began half a decade ago and the production of his work has become their driving force.
The journey is more organic than one might imagine and its a testament to doing the work. The troupes willingness to make Shakespeare relevant to modern audiences and to employ the bard to make a space for their own work in marginalized communities proved to be an auspicious and learning filled beginning. The works of Wilson mark the application of the learning gained on the journey, the maturation in the troupe, and a sharpening of its direction in tune with the director’s focus on the perpetuation of the continuum of work that speaks from and to the North American African experience in North America.
If asked the Director will tell you the story of how the willingness to do Shakespeare got the troupe a 100 hundred seat theater in West Oakland. The Sister Thea Bowman Memorial Theater was built for the troupe Director’s practice in the Black Arts which is centered in community engagement through the medium of theater in particular and performance in general. The outdoor theater was the troupe’s home for over a decade. That relationship came to an abrupt end when the venue’s board of directors fumbled on their commitment to produce the sixth play in the Cycle.
The troupe subsequently produced the work at The African American Museum and Library at Oakland CA to record breaking crowds. The now nomadic troupe continues their march through the Century Cycle with the seventh installment in Wilson’s work.
Two Trains running brings us into the sixties in America, a tumultuous time in America, a time of social upheaval, and societal unrest in response to the repressive systemic containment of North American Africans across the country. Southern migrations as a result of overt racism brought droves of North American Africans to the North, East, Mid West and the West Coast of this country, in search of opportunity and the elusive dream of inclusion. Many discovered that racism was by no means confined to the Southern part of the United States. They encountered a world that perhaps moved faster than the bucolic countryside but found that it was equally as reluctant to offer up inclusion. In response to being excluded from the mainstream they build communities in the space they were allowed to make a life as opposed to the many spaces they were systemically barred from by redlining, and other less than welcoming scenarios.
Two Trains Running is set in the Hill District of Pittsburgh PA, the year is 1969 and gentrification has come calling. The once thriving and self sufficient Hill District is being redeveloped. The historic buildings and the property owned by the self reliant community is being absorbed through the process of eminent domain. There are only a few businesses left in a formerly vibrant community and their demise is certain. The reality of the Hill District is being echoed across the country.
Our business is with the patrons of a small restaurant sandwiched in between a meat market and a funeral home. An apt placement for the character’s of Two Trains Running to make a final stand. Please join us as we immerse ourselves in the everyday lives of these everyday people as they find ways to move forward in a world full of obstacles to their thriving.
Two Trains Running opens in Oakland CA in August.