Anthony Bean is a widely respected actor, director, educator and all-around theatrical professional, yet he doesn’t always follow a script. As founder and director of his namesake theater in Carrollton, he schedules seasons by the calendar year rather than adhering to the traditional theater season between September and June.
That’s why Anthony Bean Community Theater has three more plays scheduled before the end of its 2014 season. Next up, from Sept. 12-28, is August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running,” followed by “I’d Rather Be Rich” (Nov. 1-24) and “A Christmas Carol” (Dec. 5-21).
ABCT starts its next season — the theater’s 15th — in January.
Acknowledging a special affinity for the 10 plays of Wilson’s “Pittsburgh Cycle,” Bean’s recently became one of the few theaters in the nation to stage all of them. “Two Trains Running” will be starting the cycle for its second go-round.
“That was the first play we did when we opened this theater,” Bean said. “We did them all, and now we’re bringing them back in that same order.”
The “Pittsburgh Cycle,” also known as the “Century Cycle,” is a chronicle of the African-American experience in each decade of the 20th century. Characters are from families that migrated from the rural South to the industrial cities of the North in search of better jobs. All but one play are set in the predominantly black Hill District of Pittsburgh, where Wilson grew up.
“Two Trains Running,” written in 1991, is set in the late 1960s, a turbulent time when the largely nonviolent Civil Rights Movement was morphing into the more militant and confrontational Black Power era. Pittsburgh, like a number of large American cities, exploded in riots after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., especially in the Hill District.
The action centers on a diner known as Memphis Lee’s and its owner and loyal patrons. Discussion focuses on Civil Rights and urban renewal that threaten not only to level the diner, but much of the district.
The New Orleans production of “Two Trains Running” stars Will Williams (Memphis), Dwight E. Clay (Wolf), Coti Sterling Gayles (Risa), Alphé Williams (Holloway), Roscoe Reddix Jr. (Sterling), Harold X. Evans (Hambone) and Zaria Griffin (West). Anthony Bean directs, with lighting and design by Dane Rhodes and Vic Woodward.
Noting the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, and the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in Florida, both after the killings of unarmed black teenagers, Bean said, “Nothing has changed. Forty-five years later this issue (of racism) still resonates. Just when you think it’s all settled, something else comes up. I can’t think of a better time than right now to be staging ‘Two Trains Running.’ ”
“‘Two Trains Running’ is just what the title implies,” Bean said. “We’re two separate worlds, going on the same track. We’re all heading toward the same destination ... Whether it’s hell or self-destruction or whatever, we’re all in the same pot, and we need to find common ground.”
Two Trains Running: Seventh installment in August Wilson’s 10-play ‘Pittsburgh Cycle’
Directed by Anthony Bean
WHEN: Sept. 12-28. Friday-Saturday 8 p.m.; Sunday matinee 3 p.m.
WHERE: Anthony Bean Community Theater, 1333 S. Carrollton Ave., New Orleans
TICKETS: $20 adults, $18 seniors and students
INFO: (504) 862-PLAY (7529) or www.anthonybeantheater.com