August Wilsons Jitney Tickets
Very few writers have captured the plight of a suppressed population with humor, intellect and compassion. Pulitzer Prize winning playwright August Wilson, over the course of his distinguished career, chronicles the African American experience in 20th century America. His exposure to discrimination at a tender age coupled with the absence of a father figure and a tough economic circumstance allowed Wilson to successfully relay his experience, and that of the broader African American community of the time, in his works. The eighth part of his ‘Pittsburgh Cycle’, Jitney is the story of working class African American men caught in the ‘urban renewal’ of Pittsburgh during the seventies. If you’d like a glimpse of the lives of these characters during a critical time in America, then get August Wilsons Jitney tickets.
A career that has spanned three plus decades, Wilson’s accolades range from Pulitzer Prizes to Drama Desk and Tony Awards. Inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2006, August Wilson’s works is essential in understanding the African American culture.
About the Author
Born Frederick August Kittel, Jr., August Wilson grew up in the economically depressed neighborhood of Hill District in Pittsburgh. Even though Wilson’s maternal grandmother had walked from North Carolina to Pennsylvania in search for a better life, Wilson and his five siblings lived in a small two room apartment. His early experiences at school and experience at menial jobs gave birth to rich characters in his plays. Not finding the curriculum being taught challenging enough, Wilson dropped out of school and educated himself by using the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. By the age of 12, Wilson started reading Ralph Ellison, Arna Bontemps and Richard Wright. This played an instrumental role later in Wilson’s career.
In addition to his exposure to prolific black writers at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad also influenced Wilson’s works. He was particularly impressed with the Nation of Islam and the Black Power Movement for their principles of self determination, self defense and self sufficiency. This led to the co founding of the community based Black Nationalist theater company called Black Horizon Theater in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. One of the early plays presented at the Black Horizon Theater was Jitney. Sitting in the director’s chair for the first time, Jitney turned out to be Wilson’s directorial debut.
The Extraordinary Lives of Unlicensed Cab Drivers in Pittsburgh
Written in 1979, Jitney is Wilson’s first play. The setting of this two act play is in a worn down cab station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the early autumn of 1977. Jitney revolves around richly drawn characters who as unlicensed cab drivers deal with their imperfect lives. The play tells the story of four main characters – Youngblood, Turnbo, Fielding and Becker – who while struggling with their everyday lives and circumstances hope for a better future in the face of uncertainty. There are many interesting interactions that make Jitney a classic. For instance a particularly emotional confrontation between a father and a recently released from prison son in the first act sets the tone for this play. Since 1996, the play has been directed by Marion McClinton. Some of the regular actors who have performed in Jitney continuously since 1996 include Anthony Chisholm as Fielding, Paul Butler as Becker, Stephen McKinley Henderson as Turnbo and Willis Burks as Shealy.
Jitney has won a host of awards. The play was given the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Scenic Design in 2001. It also received the Drama Desk Award in 2000, OBIE Award 1999-2000, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Off-Broadway Play in 2000-2001 and the Drama Critics Circle Award for August Wilson in 2000.
Jitney’s Broadway Debut
Of Wilson’s 10 Pittsburgh Cycle Plays, Jitney was the only that didn’t get a Broadway production. The play premiered at the Second Stage Theater on April 25, 2000. Even though Jitney had Off Broadway success, all of Wilson’s 10 Pittsburgh plays had lost money on Broadway. This had made the investors apprehensive. However, it all changed on January 19, 2017, when Jitney premiered at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater. It is currently running on Broadway with Entertainment Weekly’s Maya Stanton calling Wilson’s dialogues both timely and timeless. And Ben Brantley of The New York Times reviewing that the play brings this storefront taxi company to life like a free form urban concerto.
Jitney is essential viewing for anyone looking to understand the African American culture in the seventies. If you’re interested in a lesson in urban social economics in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, then get a hold of some August Wilsons Jitney tickets.
August Wilsons Jitney Characters