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Rarely staged play coming to Sterling College
Courtesy photo Darren Porche (seated) and James Nelson rehearse a scene from Sterling College Theatre’s production of “August Wilson’s Fences.”

STERLING — A rare chance to see a production of a legendary playwright’s greatest work is in store for audiences attending Sterling College Theatre’s production of August Wilson’s “Fences.” The often-studied, rarely-seen classic will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, March 6 and 7 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 8 in Culbertson Auditorium on the Sterling College campus. 

“Fences” is one of 10 plays by August Wilson in his series on race relations and the African-American experience in the 20th century. Each of the plays in the series, known as the “Pittsburgh Cycle,” is set in a different decade.

“Fences,” winner of the both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Broadway’s Tony Award, is set in the 1950s. It tells the story of Troy Maxson, a star of the Negro Baseball League who believes he was kept from a career in Major League baseball by racial discrimination. He works as a trash collector in Pittsburgh.

The original 1987 Broadway production of the show starred James Earl Jones. It was notably revived on Broadway in 2010 and featured Denziel Washington and Viola Davis. Washington went on to direct the popular film version of the story in 2016. 

“There is no question that August Wilson has a rightful place beside Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams and Eugene O’Neill,” said Sterling College Theatre Artistic Director Sasha Hildebrand, who is directing the show. “August Wilson’s ‘Fences’ is a play that is grounded in gritty realism, while sailing into lyrical inspiration at the same time. The play leaves audiences both uplifted and devastated; it is truly brilliant writing.”

At the core, “Fences” is a play about family. This modern classic sits at the crossroads of cultural change in America, set during the late 1950s and the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.

“‘Fences’ by August Wilson is arguably the second most commercially successful African American play, second only to Lorraine Hansberry’s ‘Raisin In the Sun,’” Hildebrand said.  

Leading the Sterling cast will be Darren Porche from New Orleans as Troy. His son, Cory will be played by Torey Wilson of Rural Hall, N.C., and his wife Rose will be played by Kalasia Thomas of Wichita. Sharing the role of Bono, Troy’s best friend and fellow trash man, will be Melvin Irby of Costa Mesa, Calif., and James Nelson of Stockton, Calif. Others in the cast include Arnell Henry from Fountain, Colo.; Bryson White of Ft. Worth; and Bryanna Moncada of Newman, Calif. 

Sterling College Theatre students will be designing the show. Braydon Jackson of Wellington will design the set, Matt Eilts of McPherson the lighting, and Tiffany Adams of Greeley, Colo., the costumes. 

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and will be available at the door before each performance.