If you're an August Wilson fan. Bradenton is a great place to be right now.
Two of Wilson's plays are being staged by excellent professional theater companies within a short drive of Bradenton. Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota opened its production of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" last week, and this weekend American Stage in St. Petersburg is opening its staging of "Jitney."
They're both part of Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle, also called the Century Cycle.
Each play in the cycle is set in a different decade of the 20th century. For "Jitney," it's the 1970s. ("Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is set in the 1920s.)
"Jitney" is set in Pittsburgh's Hill District. It's a predominantly African-American neighborhood, and a regular cab usually won't go there. So neighborhood residents called "jitneys" fill the void by becoming gypsy cab drivers. Wilson uses the drivers as catalysts for intertwining plots about the neighborhood's characters.
American Stage has been making its way through the Pittsburgh Cycle for years. "Jitney" is the ninth play of the cycle the company has staged. Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe has also committed to staging all 10 of the plays.
Details: Jan. 20-Feb. 21, American Stage, 163 Third St. N., St. Petersburg. Show times: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $29-$59. Information: 727-823-7529, americanstage.org.
-- Marty Clear