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Playwright Suzan Lori-Parks was announced the other day as director of the Broadway-bound revival of August Wilson’s Fences, but it turns out that was just a tiny part of the story. As usual, the Post’s Michael Riedel has the scoop, because as usual, the Post’s Michael Riedel is Broadway’s No. 1 outlet for anonymous score-settling and shit-stirring. Turns out that — per Riedel’s sources, anyway — Oprah Winfrey has been lobbying for years to play Rose in Fences and was brought onboard by Wilson’s original choice for director, Kenny Leon. But then Wilson died and his widow refused to give Leon and his producer, David Binder, the rights to the play, choosing producer Carole Shorenstein Hays instead.
So, says Riedel, a month ago Leon was fired and replaced by Parks. And Oprah got scared away.
It’s surprising news, coming as it does as Leon’s staged readings of every Wilson play at the Kennedy Center are getting rave reviews, and just a day after the Times published a long piece about Broadway shows bringing in black audiences — a piece that credited Binder and Leon’s 2004 hit A Raisin in the Sun for breaking new ground.
The chaos around the production scared off Winfrey, says Riedel, as well as Forest Whitaker, who was in talks to play Troy. If it’s true, August Wilson’s widow should be smacking herself on the forehead right now. But we’re of two minds about it. We’d rather see a real actress play the demanding role of Rose than a talk-show host who fancies herself an actress. On the other hand, we’d really like an August Wilson play to be an actual hit on Broadway, and casting Oprah would have made Fences the toughest ticket in years. Laurence Fishburne, Mos Def, and Anthony Mackie — as good as they might be — just won’t do.
’Fences’ Can’t Hold O [NYP]Oprah Scared Away From Broadway?