“The Commonalities of all culture within the life I know best – which is black life, that’s who I am – I’m gonna express that. That’s what I am – I’m gonna express that. That’s what I want my art to be about. This is the way we do things. We all bury our dead, we all have parties, we all decorate our houses, but we do it different. And it ain’t nothing wrong with that.”
The August Wilson Reading series (now called The Always Working Reading Series) was a new initiative that sprung from the mind of Founder/Executive Producer, Jenelle Lynn Randall, in partnership with Co-EP, Mildred Marie Langford, to create opportunities for actors of color.
AWRS started on Saturday, March 25, 2017 with August Wilson’s first play in his Century Cycle: Gem of the Ocean. At The BGB Studio the work was instantly rousing, the house was full to the rafters, and AWRS proceeded to present powerful and inspiring rehearsed readings each month, mounting August Wilson’s 10 plays in succession:
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley concluding on December 12, 2017 with Radio Golf, August Wilson’s 10th and final play.
What started out as an insecurity in not knowing August Wilson’s work, turned into a movement to do THE WORK. The Work doesn’t start with an audition. The Work is constant, The Work is habitual, The Work is boundless. The Work is perpetual.
AWRS’ MISSION: To create Visibility and Opportunity for Actors of Color.
AWRS’ MOTTO: “If you STAY ready you don’t have to GET ready.”
AWRS’ MANTRA: “Breathe, Commit, HAVE FUN!”
AT AWRS we believe: “Service is the rent that you pay for room on this earth.” -Shirley Chisholm.
AWRS favorite August Wilson quote:
“I planted a seed and watched and prayed over it. I planted myself inside you and waited to bloom,” -Fences
AWRS was born here at The BGB Studio where it rocked the house for 5 months, and then received sponsorship by The Rogue Machine Theatre, The CSDBCC, and Theatre Corner, along with the 65 volunteers which consist of Actors, Directors, Coaches, Videographers and Photographers.
Special mentions go out to Debby Jay, mutual friend of AWRS and the BGB Studio, who donated her services as an Alexander Technique Coach; Dan Christopher: AWRS Videographer/student of NYFA; Elijah Mackey: AWRS Photographer; AWRS Resident Director, Sean Walton who took on the daunting task of directing 8 of the 10 plays; and The Rogue Machine Theatre, who graciously donated their 99 seat theatre to AWRS for the last 5 plays in the cycle.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE.
Here are some testimonials from throughout the AWRS experience:
“The AWRS creates a space for artists to immerse themselves in the wonderful world of Mr. Wilson, while sharing his work with an audience who comes open-hearted, ready to receive. Having sat in the audience for “Gem of the Ocean”, and on the stage for “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”, I can truly say that this reading series is an important and necessary component of the BGB Studio. I love that Risa and Steve have committed to making this opportunity available to Jenelle, Millie, and all the talented artists who get to participate. I love seeing a vision manifested in such a powerful way!”
-Eric B. Anthony
This is SO much bigger than you and you guys. This is important for our souls, to keep us going in this world where it can feel super white and singular in power. It was incredible what you guys were able to do in 2 rehearsals. It was uncomfortable and funny and real and honest. It seemed like everyone really knew each other in their relationship. I loved how the characters were themselves even in their seats and in the way they moved about the space. And it was incredible to see a room of POC’s, where white was the minority. Thank you!!”
“I had no idea who August Wilson was, nor did I know what to expect at this reading but I was completely blown away by my experience. All of the actors were so phenomenal and committed that it took the reading to another level of enjoyment for me. I will definitely try to be at all of the readings. I couldn’t imagine another way to spend my Saturday.”
In 2018, look for more from AWRS. More readings, more art, more life!