Posted September 14, 2016 by Editorial Staff in Art+Culture

San Francisco’s African-American Shakespeare Company Shakes Things Up With 2016/17 Season Announcement

aasc season announcement
aasc season announcement

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The company will leave the Buriel Clay Theater its long-time home of 20-plus years in order to implement a plan that will see it expand its audience as well as the scope of ambition for future productions; Cinderella at The Herbst for the holidays in December, a first-ever mounting of an August Wilson play with Jitney at the Marines Memorial in April, followed by yet another first, when they stage The Winter’s Tale at the Taube Atrium in June 2017

San Francisco CA, August 30 2016 – The African-American Shakespeare Company is pleased to announce that following one of the most successful seasons in its 22-year history, it has come to the decision to leave its longtime home at The Buriel Clay Theater in the African-American Art & Cultural Complex.

Originally, the first production of the 2016/17 was to be the company’s first production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream since 1998. Executive Director Sherri Young and Artistic Director L. Peter Callender’s decision to place the play in Trinidad’s Carnival in the West Indies conjured up a partnering opportunity with Zaccho Dance Company which specializes in aerial dance, along with a Carnival music group that was irresistible, but with the move out of the Buriel Clay happening at the same time, they and the board decided it would be better served as the anchor to the 2017/18 season.

“It’s always hard to leave your home,” says AASC Executive Director Sherri Young,  “which is what The Buriel Clay has been to us all these years, but the time has come to do just that, and we’re very excited to begin this new journey. I can’t wait to bring our actors, audiences, and upcoming season into these superb spaces.”

“Our 2016-2017 season,” stresses Callender, “is our season of community, and reflects the difficult choices AASC has made over the past few months in changing venues and the importance our community holds in the success of our theater.”

The AASC original holiday favorite Cinderella will open the season at The Herbst, followed by August Wilson’s Jitney, at the Marines Memorial, which will be directed by Callender, who also staged it to great acclaim in Florida last year. The company will finish up the season at the stunning Taube Atrium, with its first ever production of The Winter’s Tale.

Choosing a season of plays for African-American Shakespeare Company during this period of change was a difficult task. “We must be bold and daring,” notes Callender. “Maintaining our standard quality of good work while, at the same time, showcasing our acting company and bringing new faces and more skilled artisans on board to create art worthy of our smart, opinionated and curious audiences. We have chosen a season highlighting new collaborations, classic characters, and a first for our company, a play by the incomparable August Wilson!”

December 22 – 24 at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness Avenue

Back by popular demand, the holiday season once again sees the return of this heartwarming holiday show where Cinderella, a young, beautiful dreamer, toiling away as a lowly scullery maid to please her evil stepmother (and oddly masculine stepsisters) comes in contact with a Fairy Godmother who means business with a capital B.

Aided by the help of a little bit of magic, Cinderella finds her Prince Charming and learns that anything—even miracles—are possible when you believe in yourself. This holiday treat for the entire family has been delighting audiences for over thirteen years.

Note: audiences members will be invited to try on the life-changing shoe; also parents are encouraged to have their cameras at the ready because following the performance kids of all ages are invited to have their portraits taken with the cast and the beaming royal couple.

  • Thursday, December 22: Performance @ 8pm (Opening night!)
  • Friday, December 23: Performance @ 3pm & 8pm
  • Saturday, December 24: Performance @ 11am & 3pm maybe

Jitney by August Wilson 
April 1 – 16 at Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter Street

August Wilson’s Jitney premiered at the Allegheny Reperatory Theater in 1982. It went on to win the New York Drama Critics Award for Best New Play and the Outer Critics Circle Aware for Outstanding Off Broadway Play. August Wilson is the recipient of the 1986 Whiting Award for Drama.

Set in 1970 in the Hill District of Pittsburgh that is served by a makeshift taxi company, Jitney is a beautiful addition to the author’s decade-by-decade cycle of plays about the black American experience in the 20th century.

Jitney takes place during an end of an era, where urban renewal threatens to eliminate the makeshift small business Jitney service, which developed to serve the Black community when taxis would not come to their neighborhoods.  Jitney is a play about father and sons and brotherhood and love; loss and hope; and ultimately, community, told with passion that transcends all races. Set in 1977 in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Jitney is part of the “Pittsburgh Cycle” of plays created by August Wilson about the African-American experience in Pittsburgh.

“What makes this play stand on it’s own are the characters and how they maneuver through life’s battlefield,” says Callender. “The leaders and the followers, the dreamers and those whose dreams have faded away; and those clawing their way back from near destruction, in a world that is crumbling around them. All the while exhibiting pride, honor, dignity, humor, love and the unwavering desire to survive!”

  • Saturday, April 1: Opening @ 8pm (Opening Night!)
  • Sunday, April 2: Performance @ 3pm
  • Friday, April 7: Performance @ 8pm
  • Saturday, April 8: Performance @ 8pm
  • Sunday, April 9: Performance @ 3pm
  • Friday, April 14: Performance @ 8pm
  • Saturday, April 15: Performance @ 8pm
  • Sunday, April 16: Performance @ 3pm

Note: this is first time the company has produced the August Wilson classic Jitney; it follows in the footsteps of its hugely well-received staging of George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum during the 2015/16 season as a means of showcasing contemporary classics from the black theatrical canon.

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
June 10 – 18 at the Taube Atrium @ 401 Van Ness Avenue

The Winter’s Tale explores the unsteady, unsettling, poisonous realm of jealousy and distrust as a childhood friendship is irrevocably torn apart by a grievous misunderstanding.

King Leontes of Sicilia accuses his pregnant wife, Hermione, of infidelity with best friend and fellow King of neighboring Bohemia, Polixenes. His rage and misguided tyranny results in the plot to have the King of Bohemia killed, banish the newborn baby girl, imprison his innocent wife, and turn his stunned staff and nation against him. Directed by Artistic Director of AASC, L. Peter Callender, this study of love, jealousy, tyranny and ultimate forgiveness will bring all the complicated plot twists, memorable characters and one of Shakespeare’s most magical and romantic and unforgettable endings to life.

The pivotal role of Mamillius, Leontes son and storyteller in this production will be chosen from the a select group of the many talented young African-American children AASC has worked with in the past.

  • Saturday, June 10: Performance at 3pm & 8pm (Opening Night)
  • Sunday, June 11: Performance @ 3pm
  • Saturday, June 17: Performance @ 3pm & 8pm
  • Sunday, June 18: Performance at 8pm

Note: The Winter’s Tale is one of the few Shakespeare plays the company has not until now been produced during its 22-year history

The African-American Shakespeare intends to continue its long-running and successful free student matinee events on Thursday mornings, and plans call for retaining at least some of these matinees at the Buriel Clay Theater (prior to the public openings of the plays at the new venues).

Also, in addition to his duties with the African-American Shakespeare Company, L. Peter Callender will direct We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Know as South West Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884 – 1915. The play written by Jackie Sibblies-Drury, for San Jose Stage, examines the brutal confluence of events around the genocide that occurred in what was then known as German Südwestafrika, a German colony from 1884-1915, now the independent country of Namibia.

Finally, as a prelude to the 2016/17 Season, the African-American Shakespeare Company will host the Cultural Corridor Series of 8 outdoor performances alongside SF Jazz, SF Opera, SF Ballet and others starting on September and running through October 22 at the following locations:

  • Fillmore Mini-Park (between Golden Gate and Turk on Fillmore ): Friday September 23, September 30 and October 7 from 5pm to 6pm
  • Buchanan Street Mall (between Golden Laguna and Webster on Fulton): Sunday, September 18, September 25 and October 2 from 1pm to 2pm
  • Proxy (at Hayes and Octavia): Saturday October 22 from 11am to 2pm