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Three Questions About August Wilson’s ‘Fences’: Warner Miller


Warner Miller makes his Huntington Theatre Company debut with August Wilson’s Fences. Recently appeared in The Old Globe’s premiere of Since Africa. His credits include August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Syracuse Stage), The Piano Lesson (Geva Theatre and Indiana Repertory Theatre), False Creeds (Alliance Theatre), A Raisin in the Sun (Hartford Stage), The Ballad of Emmett Till (Eugene O’Neill Center), and A Soldier’s Play (Black Spectrum Theatre). Film credits include Melvin Lucas in American Gangster (dir. Ridley Scott), Nicky Lolo in HBO Films’ Wyclef Jean in America,and Beadle in HBO Films’ Everyday People. Television credits include Law & Order, CSI: NY, and Guiding Light. He earned his B.P.S. in music business at Five Towns College.

Warner Miller. Photo courtesy of the Huntington Theatre Company.

Warner Miller. Photo courtesy of the Huntington Theatre Company.

We asked Warner Miller, Cory in the Huntington Theatre Company’s production of Fences, to share his thoughts about August Wilson and working on the production. Fences performs at the Huntington Theatre Company through October 11, 2009

 

Describe your first encounter with August Wilson (the man himself or his plays as an actor or audience member)?
My first encounter/attempt with an August Wilson play was actually doing a scene from Fences for a workshop, believe it or not. I played Troy and it was the scene where Troy confesses of his infidelities and “lovechild”. It was my first experience with actually having to find the rhythm in Mr. Wilson’s words. It was so challenging AND gratifying, at the same time. A couple months after the workshop, I was actually cast in my first professional production of an August Wilson play, The Piano Lesson, (dir. by Seret Scott for Indiana Rep & GeVa). Again, I received such an education in August Wilson 101…leaps & bounds deeper and richer than the workshop I’d participated in months prior. Fast forward a year and a half later and I’m proud to say that this production of Fences marks my third participation with a play in the August Wilson cycle, (the second being a production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, dir. by Timothy Bond at Syracuse Stage)

Much has been made of President and Mrs Obama’s trip to Broadway to see Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Is it different to perform an August Wilson play, specifically Fences, now that America elected an African American President? How?
I don’t know if I can honestly say that it feels any different for me. I’ve always felt privileged to perform any work, especially August Wilson’s work, that has the potential to teach, encourage, inform & reform. I’ve ALWAYS felt, (and I believe, will continue to feel), that the Black experience should be learned, taught and shown in ALL mediums. For no larger reason than that experience makes up a huge part of the collective American experience. It’s ALL apart of it. And not just the parts that Mr. Wilson wrote about, either. I think that one of the great, many things about Mr. Wilson’s canon of work is that it details that experience over the expanse of 100 years…each play detailing a different decade. However, even in the richness of those plays, there is still so much more to Black Americans. In doing my research when I was cast in my first August Wilson play, I read that when Mr. Wilson was asked what he’d do at the completion of his 10 play cycle his reply was that he would just “start over” and do another cycle. Genius!

What should an Boston audience in 2009 take away from a performance of Fences?
They should take away the enjoyment of witnessing NOT only a great American play but a great picture of American life.

Fences performs through October 11, 2009 at the Huntington Theatre Company (website | profile | tag archive).

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