This season, Two River continues its commitment to produce all 10 plays of August Wilson‘s American Century Cycle with Brandon Dirden‘s production of Radio Golf, the sixth play in the Cycle produced at the theater. Performances will begin in Two River’s Rechnitz Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, on Saturday, February 29 and continue through Sunday, March 22.
August Wilson (April 27, 1945-October 2, 2005) authored Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II, and Radio Golf. These works explore the heritage and experience of the descendants of Africans in North America, decade-by-decade, over the course of the 20th century. His plays have been produced on Broadway, at regional theaters across the country, and all over the world.
Set in 1997, Radio Golf is the 10th and final play in the American Century Cycle. Real-estate developer Harmond Wilks is determined to become the first black mayor of Pittsburgh-and to revitalize the Hill District by breaking ground on his real estate firm’s most lucrative redevelopment project. Starbucks, Barnes & Noble and Whole Foods are ready to move in. One of the buildings that Harmond’s company is set to destroy is 1839 Wylie Avenue-the ancestral home of Aunt Ester, who died in 1985, during the events of King Hedley II (performed at Two River last season). Two men with close ties to Aunt Ester confront Harmond to convince him of the house’s spiritual significance to the community-forcing Harmond, and the Hill District itself, into a battle between the past and the future.
Carl Hendrick Louis‘ credits include Broadway: 1984, The Cherry Orchard (Roundabout Theatre Company). Off-Broadway: The Emperor Jones (Irish Repertory Theatre), The Tempest(Classical Theatre of Harlem), Little Children Dream of God (Roundabout Theatre Company), The King’s Whore (Walkerspace), In Fields Where They Lay (Hudson Guild Theatre), Marat/Sade (Classical Theatre of Harlem). Regional: Mlima’s Tale(Westport Country Playhouse), Sunset Baby (Kitchen Theatre Company). Film: Fan Girl, Unknown Soldier. Television: Mindhunter. Education: New York University’s Graduate Acting Program and Fordham University’s Theatre Program.
Who were some of the first people to recognize your talent for acting?
The first person that comes to mind is Ferenc Toth. He’s an independent filmmaker, who cast me as the lead in his movie, Unknown Soldier. I was young and inexperienced but Ferenc was amazing. Before we started shooting he gave a couple of acting books to read and even had me take yoga classes. It was great because that experience helped me to figure out being an actor is what I want to do, but I needed to learn how to be a better one. That motivated me to go back to college. I only applied to Fordham University because that felt right and Matthew Maguire who runs the theater program gave me a chance. Throughout my time there and after he’s pushed and encouraged me to keep going. After Fordham, Cecilia Rubino, a director, cast me in my first Shakespeare production, Much Ado About Nothing. After one performance she told me I was good but I can be better and recommended I should go to grad school. At that point I wasn’t interested. I was done with school. Although, over time I recognized I wanted to go, I needed to go, and Cecilia was there to help me on my pursuit for grad school. Since I’m a New Yorker, initially I thought I should get out of New York, but overtime realized I wanted to stay home. My prayers were answered. Mark Wing Davey who runs New York University’s Graduate Acting Program gave me a shot.
These four individuals not only recognized I had talent but they believed I could be much better than I could possibly imagine.
We’d love to know a little more about your education at Fordham and the NYU Graduate program.
My education at Fordham was incredible because that’s where I learned the fundamentals of acting. Prior to Fordham I had no formal training and going to the theater was not part of my cultural upbringing. Almost everything they exposed to me was brand new. I was a sponge absorbing everything I could. I even got to study theater abroad. I scraped some money together and went to London and Moscow!
NYU was amazing. The education there gave me the self awareness of understanding my strengths and weaknesses of my instrument. NYU also gave me massive tools to approach many forms of theatre that have been invaluable. The best part about NYU is that I’ve created wonderful relationships with actors who to this day inspire and challenge me to be better in my work.
You have an impressive list of credits. What have been some of your most challenging roles?
A recent challenge was working on the play Mlima’s Tale. I had to create six characters who all had different dialects from all over the world. Tanzanian, Nigerian, to Vietnamese just to name a few. It was really cool to create all those voices.
Another was playing the role of Caliban in The Tempest. The challenge was to find a compelling physicality but also being mindful that the physical life wouldn’t hinder the language and potential harm body over the course of the show.
Can you tell us about your character in Radio Golf and how you have prepared for the role?
I play the role of Harmond Wilks who comes from a family business of real estate developers and decides to run for mayor. He is also a true American patriot and believes wholeheartedly in the law. The biggest preparation for this role has been finding my confidence and love for our justice system and being an American. Where I am personally in life and where we are as a government in this country doesn’t make it easy.
How are you enjoying your experience at TRT?
It’s been lovely. Everyone is kind, generous, and truly cares about setting up a space that allows us all to focus on the work and that’s beautiful. Also, our cast and crew is very lucky because we’re the first to use the brand new building of Two River Theater. It’s very clear its been built with the attention and detail of taking care of all of it artists who will use the space for years to come and it’s fantastic.
What would you like audiences to know about the show?
This is beautiful play about being American. This show challenges us as people to wrestle with what kind of an American we want to be.
Can you share with us any of your future plans?
My future plans are to continue to be fortunate enough to have the privilege to work on great projects that have a specific message that will challenge people’s minds and also entertain.
Ticket prices for Radio Golf range from $40 to $70, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $25 tickets are available for every performance; $25 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $25 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available from https://tworivertheater.org/ or 732.345.1400.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Carl Hendrick Louis