University of Pittsburgh
April 19, 2005

Pitt's Kuntu Repertory Theatre to Perform Seven Guitars At Penn State University's August Wilson Play Festival April 27-30


Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—Actors from Pitt's Kuntu Repertory Theatre will perform at the August Wilson Play Festival, to be held April 27-30 at the Penn State University Park campus. It is the first time an event will address—through production, play readings or discussions—the 10 plays of Wilson's that each depicts the African American experience in a different decade of the 20th century.

The Kuntu cast will perform Seven Guitars, a play set in 1948 in Pittsburgh's Hill District. It tells the story of musician Floyd Barton and his demise, as seen through the eyes of his six musician friends returning from his funeral. Pitt Associate Professor in Africana Studies Vernell Lillie, who is Kuntu's founder and artistic director, will direct the performance.

The festival will feature two other theatrical productions—Fences, performed by Pennsylvania Centre Stage, and Jitney, performed by Temple University Theatre—as well as staged readings and discussions by theater and literary critics. The event also will include a presentation of the film The Piano Lesson, based on Wilson's 1990 play of the same name.

As a teenager spending many hours at Carnegie Library, the Pittsburgh-born Wilson found inspiration from the literary works of the Harlem Renaissance and those of other Black writers. Working at menial jobs to support himself, he began his literary career by submitting poems to Black publications at Pitt. In 1982, Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom won him wide acclaim as an important new dramatist and interpreter of the African American experience. His subsequent plays have garnered many awards, including Pulitzer Prizes for Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990); a Tony Award for Fences; Great Britain's Olivier Award for Jitney; as well as seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars, and Jitney.

For more information, including details on tickets, locations, and festival packages, call 814-865-6482 or visit