'Radio' plays a new tune

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Playwright August Wilson is turning to a new director for the world premiere of “Radio Golf,” the concluding work of his 10-play, decade-by-decade cycle chronicling the African-American experience in the 20th century.

Timothy Douglas, associate artistic director for Kentucky’s Actors Theater of Louisville for four years, will stage the premiere at Yale Repertory Theater in New Haven. It runs April 22-May 14.

A 43-year-old grad of Yale School of Drama, Douglas has largely worked as an actor and director in regional theater. He staged two Wilson plays while at Louisville.

A second production of “Radio Golf” is scheduled at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum starting in late July.

Set in the 1990s, “Radio Golf” marks Wilson’s return to Yale Rep, which launched the epic cycle of plays with “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” in the mid-’80s. The Rep premiered many of Wilson’s early plays through the ’80s, staged by then-artistic director Lloyd Richards, who discovered the Pulitzer-winning playwright at the O’Neill Theater Center.

Wilson’s latest play, “Gem of the Ocean,” is playing on Broadway starring Phylicia Rashad. That production caused headlines in November when longtime Wilson producer Ben Mordecai — also associate dean at Yale School of Drama — failed to secure financing for the New York-bound show following its troubled Boston run.

During that tryout, the play saw a change in cast (Delroy Lindo ankled) and director (longtime collaborator Marion McClinton became ill and was replaced by Kenny Leon). A new production team secured financing to bring the show to Broadway, where it opened last month to strong reviews.

“Radio Golf” centers on a proposed demolition of the Pittsburgh home owned by Aunt Esther, a character referenced throughout the play cycle who is seen onstage for the first time in “Gem of the Ocean.”

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