ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

South Jersey Cultural Alliance hosts pop-up Negro League exhibit welcoming August Wilson’s Fences to Stockton

The National Players, which prides itself on being the nation’s longest running touring company based in Olney, MD, presented the production by arrangement with Concordtheatricals.com on behalf of Samuel French, Inc.

The National Players Tour 73 cast takes the stage at the conclusion of August Wilson's Fences at the Stockton University Performing Arts Center. (From Left-to-Right) Donte' Bynum (Bono), Monuaze Mason (Cory), Avery Ford (Lyons), Carl Stewart (Troy), Catrina Brenae (Rose), Adirah Robinson (Raynell), and Rashaud Matthews (Gabriel)Photo Credit: Mark Tyler
The National Players Tour 73 cast takes the stage at the conclusion of August Wilson's Fences at the Stockton University Performing Arts Center. (From Left-to-Right) Donte' Bynum (Bono), Monuaze Mason (Cory), Avery Ford (Lyons), Carl Stewart (Troy), Catrina Brenae (Rose), Adirah Robinson (Raynell), and Rashaud Matthews (Gabriel)Photo Credit: Mark Tyler

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — August Wilson’s Fences received a warm welcome from the South Jersey Cultural Alliance on Saturday Nov. 19 when the production played for one night only at the Stockton University Performing Arts Center.

The National Players, which prides itself on being the nation’s longest running touring company, based in Olney, MD, presented the production by arrangement with Concordtheatricals.com on behalf of Samuel French, Inc. The National Players cast of Tour 73, which is all African American, has performed from Alabama to Massachusetts.

African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey Founder Ralph E. Hunter, Sr., helped organize the exhibit Stealing Home: How Jackie Robinson Changed America in partnership with the SJCA before the show.

Ralph E. Hunter, Sr., founder of the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey, helped organize the exhibit Stealing Home: How Jackie Robinson Changed America before the show. Photo Credit: Mark Tyler
Ralph E. Hunter, Sr., founder of the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey, helped organize the exhibit Stealing Home: How Jackie Robinson Changed America before the show. Photo Credit: Mark Tyler

“This is the story of Jackie Robinson from when he was in the Negro League straight through playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers,” said Hunter. “It’s a great exhibit and we’re just delighted that the African American Heritage Museum is able partner like this, and I think if more and more organizations within our region start doing the same thing, we can start building a great alliance.”

SJCA Executive Director Julie Hain said these types of pop-up events represent the new direction the alliance is forging.

“It was a win-win for everyone,” said Hain. “The response we got shows that there’s an audience for this type of showing.”

Chanelle René, an award winning artist who explores themes of diverse beauty, freedom and self-discovery, showed her work before the play at the Stockton University Performing Arts Center. Photo Credit: Mark Tyler
Chanelle René, an award winning artist who explores themes of diverse beauty, freedom and self-discovery, showed her work before the play at the Stockton University Performing Arts Center. Photo Credit: Mark Tyler

Hain said that the SJCA, which has been around for some 30 years, is making strides to connect all facets of the arts community. The pop-up event featured the Robinson exhibit in addition to area artists and others showing their work.

“The aim is to get everyone to work more collaboratively,” Hain said.

Baseball was the common thread through both the exhibit and the play.

Set in the 1950s, Fences is the story of a frustrated former Negro League baseball player named Troy Maxson who could never seem to hit the home runs he wanted in terms of life success. Growing too old before the Major Leagues started accepting African American players, Troy found his big win by marrying his wife, Rose. Troy struck out again, however, by allowing infidelity to destroy his family ultimately leading to his biggest loss.

Carl Stewart, who played Troy, opposite Catrina Brenae, his onstage wife Rose, delivered a powerful performance that drew emotional outbursts from the audience, angered by his cavalier attitude.

Brenae rendered a passionate portrayal of a woman betrayed and disappointed by the cheating husband she took pride in building a life and family with.

Adirah Robinson, who played Raynell, (Left) and  Catrina Brenae, who played Rose (Right) greet audience members after the show. Photo Credit: Mark Tyler
Adirah Robinson, who played Raynell, (Left) and Catrina Brenae, who played Rose (Right) greet audience members after the show. Photo Credit: Mark Tyler

Adirah Robinson, who played Raynell, captured the essence of a pre-adolescent girl in all the innocence of times long past clad in a black dress, pigtails, and white tennis shoes.

Supporting actors Donte’ Bynum, who played Troy’s best friend Bono, Monuaze Mason, who played Troy and Rose’s son Cory along with Avery Ford, who played Lyons, a Jazz musician who is Troy’s son born before he and Rose met and married, and Rashaud Matthews, who played Gabriel, Tory’s brother injured while in the military, worked together seamlessly to help weave this production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning two-act story into its own distinctly unique work of art.

The set of August Wilson's Fences is quiet just before the play begins. Photo Credit: Mark Tyler
The set of August Wilson's Fences is quiet just before the play begins. Photo Credit: Mark Tyler

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