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State of Wonder

Jitney Taps Into Hard Truths About Race, Gentrification


Portland Playhouse continues its exploration of August Wilson’s works this winter with a production of Jitney.

Rodney Hicks and Ashley Willias in the Portland Playhouse production of Jitney.

Rodney Hicks and Ashley Willias in the Portland Playhouse production of Jitney.

Brud Giles / Portland Playhouse

The show is the only play in Wilson’s celebrated Pittsburgh Cycle that never played on Broadway,  but its off-Broadway premier with Second Stage Theatre was critically lauded.

Russell Hornsby was part of that ensemble cast, playing Youngblood, the young Vietnam veteran who’s fighting for a degree of upward mobility. He’s sometimes seen around Portland these days as part of the cast of Grimm, but his extensive stage credentials include several acclaimed productions of Wilson’s work.  

Rodney Hicks plays Youngblood in the Portland Playhouse production. He has his own list of award-winning stage and screen credits. Theater audiences may remember his portrayal of Curly in Portland Center Stage’s 2012 production of Oklahoma.

Both actors sat down with April to talk about the play, and Wilson’s invocation of black identity and gentrification.

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