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Home / King Hedley II

A Noise Within continues ‘American Century Cycle’ with ‘King Hedley II’

A Noise Within continues its commitment to August Wilson’s “American Century Cycle” with a new production of “King Hedley II.” Gregg T. Daniel, who has previously directed A Noise Within productions of Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean,” “Seven Guitars” and “Radio Golf,” returns to direct the ninth play in the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s extraordinary 10-play cycle that explores, decade-by decade, the Black experience in 20th century America. 

After seven years in prison, King Hedley re-enters society eager to rebuild his life, but quickly confronts the inescapable challenges facing Black men in Reagan-era Pittsburgh. King’s disenfranchisement comes into conflict with the stories he’s been telling himself. Yet he continues to plant seeds where nothing can grow.

“Wilson is our American Shakespeare, and his language comes alive in the mouths of fine actors in a similar way,” say A Noise Within co-artistic directors Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott. “This play is a tragedy, but there’s so much humor in it. That is part of the humanity Wilson brings to his work.”

“He was a poet before he was a playwright, and you can hear it in the electrically charged richness of his language, the musicality.” agrees Daniel. “You can feel it enter your body and lift you. King is someone trying to live up to his name. He aspires to live an honorable, respectful, just life after serving his time, but is denied that at every turn. There’s an epic quality to the story in the way it addresses the human condition: what we strive to become and to achieve in life, how we try to better ourselves.”

Taken as a whole, the 10 plays in Wilson’s monumental cycle span a period of 90 years, from “Gem of the Ocean” in 1904 to “Radio Golf” in 1997 — with nine of them set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, where Wilson himself grew up. But the plays were not written sequentially and are not connected in the manner of a serial story. Each play stands alone. Many of the characters recur or are referenced in several of the plays, which enriches the audience experience each time a new one is viewed

Performances of “King Hedley II” take place April 6 through April 28 on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. (no 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, April 6; no evening performance on Saturday, April 27; dark Thursday, April 18). Four preview performances take place on Sunday, March 31 at 2 p.m.; Wednesday, April 3 and Thursday, April 4 each at 7:30 p.m.; and Friday, April 5 at 8 p.m.

The performance on Thursday, April 11 is “Black Out Night,” an opportunity for an audience self-identifying as Black to experience the performance together, and tickets include admission to a post-show reception; non-Black-identifying patrons are welcome to attend, or to select a different performance. Post-performance conversations take place every Friday (except the preview) and on Sunday, April 14. A one-hour INsiders Discussion Group will take place on Sunday, April 7 at 12:30 p.m., prior to the matinee performance (separate admission: $25).

In addition, four student matinees will take place on weekday mornings (April 10, April 17, April 18 and April 24) at 10:30 a.m. Interested educators should email education@anoisewithin.org.

Tickets to “King Hedley II” start at $29. Student tickets start at $18. Tickets to the previews on Wednesday, April 3 and Thursday, April 4 will be Pay What You Choose, with tickets starting at $10 (available online beginning at 12 p.m. the Monday prior to that performance). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.

A Noise Within is located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107. “King Hedley II” is recommended for ages 14 and up. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (626) 356-3100 or go to www.anoisewithin.org.

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