August Wilson’s classic play titled “Two Trains Running” will be presented at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center (JPAC) in Jamaica, New York, from November 3 to November 5, 2017. Tickets cost between $25 and $35.

"Two Trains Running" debuted on Broadway in 1992 (with a cast that included Roscoe Lee Browne, Anthony Chisholm, and Laurence Fishburne, who won a Tony Award for his role) yet its plot is set in 1960s-era Pittsburg. A diner in an African-American neighborhood is the setting for discussions of race and social change.

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Recently, co-producer (and a playwright herself) Andrea J. Fulton granted an exclusive interview where she discussed the play, her experiences in theater, and more.

Theater, plays, characters, and directing

Meagan Meehan (MM): What initially inspired you to seek out a career in the theater?

Andrea J. Fulton (AJF): Years ago, I met with some actors of color backstage on Broadway.

As I got to know these artists, I realized that they were disappointed with the extent to which their talent had so often been overlooked and underutilized. I felt their pain and knew there were audiences that were missing a unique opportunity to experience their performances on stage. I became inspired and personally driven to address the paucity of opportunities for talented artists who found themselves without enough work or work that was not interesting, challenging, or rewarding.

MM: You are not only a producer and founder of a non-profit arts organization, but also an award-winning playwright. How do you balance these different roles, and is there one task that’s more important to you at this point in your life and career?

AJF: I never knew when I sat down at age forty-five to write “One Drop” that I would continue to write plays, be the recipient of awards, a producer, and founder of the Anderson & Bert Cade Fulton Foundation.

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My first award, the “Emerging Playwright” from Theater for the New City, was amazing and Crystal Field, the co-founder, was one of the first to recognize and support my work. My plays have been accepted into numerous festivals and received other accolades such as five AUDELCO Award nominations. This year, I was honored to receive the 2017 Barbour Playwrights Award. Please, do not let anyone tell you that being recognized for your work is not a motivating factor in continuing to work. I am humbled by being considered for a Pulitzer Prize but I owe it all to the community that I serve, and grew up in, the Africana community, and its rich heritage in America.

My first play, “One Drop,” is a homage to my heritage and my parents, it is set in St. Tammany Parrish in Mandeville, Louisiana, where they were born. I founded The Anderson Bert Cade Fulton Foundation to celebrate them, and inspire older and late-start artists to continue to strive.

As Oprah said, if you do something you love it will all work out.

So, although sometimes it can get extremely busy, I have a great support system and I’ve managed to do alright.

MM: What was it about "Two Trains Running" that most appealed to you and what characters and plot lines most interest you?

AJF: August Wilson is a brilliant and complex playwright. His theater works requires great acting and immense resolve because his monologues and dialogues are elaborate and usually require extensive memorization skills.

I cannot say I have a favorite character because all of the characters in this play are so fully rounded, but I was drawn to “Two Trains Running” because of the idea of history repeating itself. We can directly compare the 1960s movements, where Wilson decided to set the play, to the movements that are reverberating now.

I stand in amazement of authors, playwrights, directors, and artists who are capable of effectively exploring issues that will continue to impact us throughout history. Only genius can describe a moment, where your word for word predictions, speak truth in another place and time.

Staging, performance, costumes, and production

MM: Why did you decide to stage this play in Jamaica, Queens, and how did you secure the venue?

AJF: In 2016, I made a leap and agreed to produce an August Wilson Play that was first scheduled to be performed in a Brooklyn park. I negotiated a second park and both went so well we were asked to do it again this year. We began rehearsing in a local library when the head librarian took notice and invited us to perform there. She was an innovator and I appreciate her.

Those sets lead us to the historic Brownsville Heritage House in Brooklyn. Now we are gearing up for the performances at Jamaica Performing Arts Center, (JPAC). Our company has come from free shows, with folks gathering around on a lawn, to a small neighborhood library with "donations accepted," to performing at an amazing venue, in a kindred community where we will offer something wonderful to patrons at an affordable price.

MM: What was the process of getting the costumes, props, lighting, etc., sorted out?

AJF: Selecting the creative team is always a combination of key factors: assessing the level of interest individuals have in the specific work, their availability, cost, and suitability for the project. I have a team of go to artists I work with often. I have been fortunate to have people on my team who are not only very talented, but also passionate, creative, generous, resourceful and humble-- all winning qualities.

MM: This is a period piece, so did that make any aspects of its production more difficult than a play set in modern times?

AJF: Oh goodness, are the 1960s being considered a long-ago period now? Okay, well, period pieces are always challenging because you want to make sure your portrayals are accurately set for the time and history. That's why I bring on experts. Although I am at home in the 60s, I was young and I am bound not to know every historical fact.

MM: Thematically, how does this play differ or conform to the kinds that you usually produce?

AJF: Thematically it fits in well because I love writing and staging pieces that focus on the human condition: love, compassion, hopes, dreams and fears. All these things involve human nature. I have always been fascinated by how people think, act, their wants and needs, and the idea of knowing that this is what we have in common, recognizing not only what makes us different but most importantly what binds us. It is the basic human emotions we share that most effectively connect us. This is why I love the power of music and tend to create and include music in my plays, because it is universal and has the ability to stir the soul. And, when I hear laughter in the audience, or see a tear wiped from a face, I know I have done something right.

MM: Are you currently anticipating any other projects on the horizon and is there anything more that you would like to discuss?

AJF: We have two great runs scheduled at the Theater for the New City in February and April of 2018. In February we will be performing a revival of the first play I ever wrote, a period piece set in 1800s Louisiana that is based on my family history, called “One Drop.” It has live music, comedy, and a great story-line.

In April, we will debut my brand-new play, also at TNC. As we get closer to those productions, folks can check TNC’s website for details. Like us on Facebook at Fulton Arts Foundation, and stay plugged in for updates and details on these upcoming shows and other developments.