Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Two Trains Running" brings race relations to the stage

(Originally published in the 10/9/15 edition. A correction was made regarding the start time for the champagne gala)

   “Two Trains Running”- a tale of race relations and small-business ownership- will be coming to Benicia Old Town Theatre next week.
   August Wilson’s play explores the changing attitudes of race in the late ’60s. It is set in a diner Pittsburgh’s mostly African-American Hill District neighborhood in 1969, one year after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The characters who frequent the diner include a recently released prisoner, a retired house painter and a man who suffers from mental retardation.
   Dyanne Vojvoda, a publicist with Benicia Old Town Theatre Group, said the board had seen the play at Oregon’s Shakespeare Festival in 2013 and loved it.
   “Out of the 11 shows we saw, this one was unbelievably wonderful, she said.

   The play will be directed by Terrence Tyrie Ivory, a professor at Contra Costa College. Additionally, Vojvoda has spoken very warmly about the cast.
   “This is a wonderful cast,” she said. “They are committed to the project, and they love working with the director.”
   Although the play centers around African-American characters, Vojvoda says the themes can be universal to anybody.
   “Their issues are widespread,” she said. “People experience the same things they experience.”
   She also praised the play for its blend of drama and comedy.
   In addition to race relations, the play also tackles the livelihood of small business. 
   “Part of the story is that the diner is being bought by bigger real estate developers,” Volunteer Karen Lousa said. “This is a very contemporary theme.”
   Vojvoda says she hopes the play triggers a sense of nostalgia for people who lived in the era.
   “Audience members will be sure to experience a little bit of history as well as a little memory of their past,” she said. “We have a lot of messages that talk about generations, political movements and important issues.”

   “Two Trains Running” opens with a champagne gala at 8 p.m., Oct. 16. The event will be catered by First Street Cafe. From there, the play will be performed on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. until Nov. 7. All shows will be performed at the Historic B.D.E.S. Hall on West J Street. Tickets are available at There will also be a special show and dinner deal from Nine O Seven Grill for $35.

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