King Hedley poster

The Department of Theatre Arts is opening its 2019-20 mainstage season with a production of “King Hedley II” by August Wilson Sept. 19.

“King Hedley II,” the ninth play in August Wilson’s 10-play cycle that examines African American life in the 20th Century, tells the story of an ex-con trying to rebuild his life in 1985.

Hedley, the main character, wants to support himself by selling refrigerators and to start a family in Pittsburgh. Set during the Reagan administration, the play critically questions whether trickle-down economics benefited urban African Americans.

Baron Kelly
Baron Kelly

Baron Kelly, the play’s director and head of graduate acting at UofL, sees the relevance of the play into today’s society.

“All of the themes of inequality, zero opportunities and no sense of history or spirit left in the corners of Reagan’s America still reverberate today in communities across this country,” said Kelly. “Poverty and police killings of black people still blight African American communities across America with pervasive inequality and rage.”

“King Hedley II” is an appropriate start to Theatre Arts’ “Season of Black Plays,” said Johnny Jones, director of the African American Theatre Program for the department. 

Wilson’s 1996 speech, “The Ground on which I Stand,” was one of the inspirations for the season’s theme. Wilson’s speech called for American theaters to tell more stories about the African American experience.

Theatre Arts faculty and staff selected six plays that engage race and blackness on various levels and they will produce each work along with activities to foster engagement, inclusivity and cultural consciousness throughout UofL and surrounding communities. 

Director, African American Theatre Program
Johnny Jones, Director, African American Theatre Program

“I really want people to think about how these plays speak to America as a whole, not just one group of people — that really is the goal,” said Jones.

The production will open Thurs., Sept. 19 and will continue its first week run through Sept. 21. The production will continue its second week run Sept. 26-29. Evening performances start at 7:30 p.m. Sunday matinees are at 3 p.m.

“King Hedley II” will run at the Playhouse, 1911 South Third Street. Purchase season tickets, which are $50, here. Tickets for individual performances also are available here or call 502-852-6814.

Niki King
Niki King Jones is positive she has the best job at the University of Louisville, serving the communication needs of the departments of fine arts and theatre, the School of Music, University Libraries and Alumni – all the fun, creative stuff. Before coming to UofL in 2015, Niki held communication positions in both private and nonprofit sectors in Louisville, Ky., including at Heaven Hill Distilleries and the Jewish Community of Louisville. For 10 years prior, she was a reporter at various newspapers across the country, most recently The Courier-Journal. Niki graduated from the University of Memphis with a BA in journalism and has a masters degree in community and leadership development from the University of Kentucky.