Wilson Estate nixes legit tribute

Signature's show pulled

The August Wilson Estate has abruptly yanked next year’s seasonlong tribute at Off Broadway’s Signature Theater — a move that could be interpreted as an effort to focus attention on Wilson’s final play, “Radio Golf.”

In a letter to the Signature Theater, a representative of the estate said it could not continue to grant rights to Wilson’s work at this time. A tribute was planned for the 2006-07 season that would have included readings of all 10 plays in Wilson’s cycle about African-American life in the 20th century, plus his one-man show “How I Learned What I Learned” and a new production of “Two Trains Running.”

It was not clear why the rights were pulled, or if the estate had stopped granting rights to all theaters in all parts of the country. San Francisco’s Lorraine Hansberry Theater and the Public in Pittsburgh plan to mount “Gem of the Ocean” in February and May, respectively, but neither theater had a representative available to comment.

Calls to the estate’s legal representative were not returned late Thursday.

Move suggests that the estate wants to focus on “Radio Golf,” the final play in Wilson’s landmark cycle. It was staged at Yale Rep in New Haven, Conn., after which Wilson spent two months reworking it for a production at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Wilson died Oct. 2, soon after the Taper production opened. Producers, which include Jujamcyn, have vowed to bring the show to Broadway in the 2006-07 season.

“We’re very disappointed,” Signature a.d. James Houghton said in a statement, “but, of course, we respect the wishes of Mr. Wilson’s estate.” No replacement programming has been announced.

Besides “Radio Golf,” “Two Trains Running” and “Gem,” Wilson’s plays are “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Fences,” “The Piano Lesson,” “Seven Guitars,” “Jitney” and “King Hedley II.” “Jitney,” set in the 1970s, and “Radio Golf” are the only Wilson plays not mounted on Broadway stages.

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