A potential pro baseball career denied because of the color of his skin and an obsession with cheating death plague the mind of the main character of Fences, to be performed at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gilbert F. Hartwig Theatre beginning Nov. 4. Written by August Wilson, this Pulitzer Prize-winning drama deals with the issues of family relationships, masculinity, pride and racial oppression.
Troy Maxson is a 53-year-old African American male struggling to provide for his family in 1957 Pittsburgh. In his younger days, he was a force to be reckoned with on the baseball diamond and honed his talent for the sport during a 15-year prison stint.
However, the color barrier prevents him from taking his skills to the big leagues and securing prosperity for himself and his family. Instead, he lives a mediocre life with his wife Rose, younger brother and injured war veteran Gabriel and son Cory, all the while grappling with his personal demons.
Maxson is portrayed by Southern Miss MFA student Terry Jordan of Waynesboro, Miss. In assessing Maxson’s personality and the challenges of his day-to-day life, Jordan says “he’s stern, but for a reason. Everything he does is for a reason. And he’s also weighed down with a lot of anger and frustration, and has to release that somehow.”
Jordan has worked to capture both the essence of his character’s unstable emotional state and the historical context of his world. “It’s a different set of rules to live by during the 1950s than today, and so I’ve worked to get the time period down pat to better understand why he (Maxson) feels the way he does,” Jordan said.
Despite the instability Troy brings to their life, Rose Maxson holds fast as the matriarch determined to keep their 18-year marriage and household from falling apart. Kimberly Morgan, an MFA student from Taylor, Miss. who plays Rose said the role has been ‘one of the most challenging and richest experiences I’ve had in theatre.”
In summing up her character in Fences, Morgan said Rose is “the backbone of the family. She believes in doing the right thing, and keeping the peace. She’s selfless, devoted, loyal - Rose is ‘down for you.’ She will have your back.”
Joe Hernandez, a third-year MFA student from Crestview, Fla. who serves as director for Fences, said the powerful relationships between its characters are “unlike anything in any play I’ve worked with before and probably again” and praised Morgan and Jordan for their efforts in taking on the play’s leading roles. “They’re both very talented and hard-working,” he said. ‘As their artistry deepens, these kinds of important roles will come their way again.”
Other cast members include freshman Jaylen Easmond of Hattiesburg, in the role of Lyons; sophomore Terrance Fleming of Mobile, Ala. as Cory; Bono, MFA student Robert Issac of Chicago as Bono; senior Josh Thomas of Hattiesburg as Gabriel; and Jerrica Smith of Hattiesburg as Raynell. Set designer is Lauren Roberts, an MFA student from Hurley, Miss.; light and sound designer is senior Andrew Bledsoe of Tupelo, Miss.; and costume designer is Grace Schmitz, a senior from Poplarville, Miss.
Performance dates for Fences are Nov. 4, 5, 6, 9, 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m.; and a Nov. 6 matinee at 2 p.m. that follows a 1 p.m. pre-show talk. Tickets are $8 for the general public and $6 for students; for tickets, visit the Southern Miss Ticket Office at the Pat Ferlise Center on West Fourth Street; call 601.266.5418 or 1.800.844.8425; or online, visit www.southernmisstickets.com.
For information about Southern Miss Theatre, online visit www.usm.edu/theatre.