Header image

Five Reasons to See August Wilson's Seven Guitars

August Wilson's Seven Guitars is a riveting play that explores faith, artistry, humor, oppression and love set to the fiery rhythms and intense lyricism of American blues music. Set in 1940s Pittsburgh, struggling singer Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton’s shot at stardom comes when a major recording studio offers an unexpected opportunity of a lifetime. Armed with newfound hope and a second chance, Floyd and his friends discover that dreams are heartbreakingly fragile when confronted by a world set against them.

This acclaimed American classic is not to be missed – and here are five top reasons why everyone should see this production, coming to the Quadracci Powerhouse from March 7 – April 2, 2023.

To learn more or purchase tickets to Seven Guitars click here.

1. Playwright August Wilson, “America’s Shakespeare”

Known as "The American Shakespeare," two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson is known for his epic American Century Cycle (also known as the Pittsburgh Cycle), which contains ten plays that chronicle the African-American experience in the ten decades of the 20th century. He is the first African-American playwright to win the Tony Award for Best Play for Fences, which was adapted into a 2016 feature film starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Wilson dropped out of high school after being falsely accused of plagiarism. From that day on, he self-educated himself at the local library and immersed himself art, music and poetry in the city's historic Hill District, a diverse hub of creativity and commerce that would highly influence his body of work. Nine of the plays in Wilson's Century Cycle are set on the Hill, including Seven Guitars which takes place in the 1940s.

2. Spotlight on Black History: American Blues Music and Pittsburgh's Hill District

August Wilson once said, “the blues is the best literature Black Americans have. It's our cultural response to the world, an emotional reference point.” Wilson drew inspiration from American blues for all of his plays and, in Seven Guitars, this style of music takes center stage through the story of Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton, a gifted guitarist in Pittsburgh, PA whose luck runs out as he’s on the verge of major success.

Floyd's area of town is the Hill District, known as “Little Harlem” through the 1930s – 1950s and recognized as an epicenter of African-American culture. Wilson spent the first 13 years of his life in the neighborhood; a golden age when jazz, music, poetry, art and commerce thrived. Legendary artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis often performed at cafes and clubs in this vibrant neighborhood.

3. Directed by Ron OJ Parson, “2022 Chicagoan of the Year for Theater”

Acclaimed director Ron OJ Parson was recently named “Chicagoan of the Year for Theater” by the Chicago Tribune after a standout 2022 that included hit show after hit show, including an acclaimed revival of Wilson’s Two Trains Running. He returns to Milwaukee Rep to direct Seven Guitars, which marks his 31st Wilson production

4. Starring Milwaukee’s own Dimonte Henning

Following his days as a young performer at Milwaukee High School of the Arts and UW-Milwaukee, this former Milwaukee Rep Emerging Professional Resident has made a splash in our city’s theater scene. Last seen on the Rep stage in 2022’s Toni Stone, he also is Artistic Director for Lights! Camera! Soul! and is a founding member of the Milwaukee Black Theater Festival.

5. Wilson’s theatrical legacy continues today with the Broadway revival of The Piano Lesson

This fourth play in Wilson’s American Century Cycle recently returned to Broadway to great fanfare. With an all-star cast including Academy Award-winner Samuel L. Jackson, John David Washington (Amsterdam), and Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black). Wilson’s work continues to be praised by critics nearly 35 years after its original run:

“Eloquent writing… Wilson makes poetry out of the mundane.”
– The New York Times

“Wilson’s language is dramatic lyricism of a very high order.”
– Variety

To learn more or purchase tickets to Seven Guitars click here.