Pittsburgh Playwright’s ‘Jitney’ in Last Week at August Wilson House: Free RADical Days at Warhol Museum (Thurs., 9/15/22)

JITNEY by August Wilson. Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre. Through September 18.

(L. to R.) Fielding (Mike Traylor), Doub (Chuck Timbers), and Turnbo (Les Howard) discussing the topics of the day.

(L. to R.) Fielding (Mike Traylor), Doub (Chuck Timbers), and Turnbo (Les Howard) discussing the topics of the day.

Back in 1982, some Pittsburgh theater fans began buzzing about a new play by a practically unknown playwright. “Gotta see it” was the word. Hilarious and yet serious, the play didn’t seem to have much of a plot—just a bunch of characters at a jitney cab station in the Hill District, joking and razzing each other—but it drew you in. You felt right there with the guys in their shabby storefront office, where people could call in for rides when a local bookie wasn’t using the phone … and then gradually, as tensions emerged, things got riveting. The play was August Wilson’s Jitney. After its ’82 premiere at the now-gone Allegheny Repertory Theatre, Jitney went nearly forgotten while Wilson moved on to fame with subsequent plays like Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Fences. Finally in 1996, a Jitney revival at Pittsburgh Public Theater got Wilson started on multiple revisions to the script. New versions were later staged in New York and London, until Jitney became a cherished part of Wilson’s 10-play American Century Cycle.

Now there is a rare chance to see Jitney performed by the Wilson experts at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre. Mark Clayton Southers directs a cast in which Becker, owner of the jitney enterprise, is played by the longtime actor, social activist, and current Pittsburgh School Board President Sala Udin. See our review. 8 p.m. Outdoors at the August Wilson House, 1727 Bedford Ave., Hill District. (M.V.)

Warhol’s 1986 self-portrait combined rock-star flash with dark foreboding—notice the weary look. Andy died the next year, having produced an immense body of work. Much of it would go into the Warhol Museum. (Image © Andy Warhol Foundation)

2) RADical Days is a big beautiful thank you to Allegheny County taxpayers for their support of various regional asset organizations each year with a small amount of their local taxes. County residents are rewarded with free events, programming, and activities on certain days by individual organizations. Today’s highlight is free admission to The Andy Warhol Museum. Timed tickets needed. 117 Sandusky St., North Shore.

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Mike Vargo

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