Portland premiere of 'Seven Guitars'

Artists Reperatory Theatre looks at African-American life in Pittsburgh

By Jenny Wasson / The Bulletin

Published Oct 19, 2012 at 05:00AM

Since its inception in 1982, the Artists Repertory Theatre has championed contemporary playwrights and their works. Over the past three decades, Portland's longest-running professional theater has produced 26 world premieres — with more than half in the past 10 years.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary season, the Artists Repertory Theatre is revving up its commitment of promoting new works with a lineup full of more world, regional and city premieres. The latest is the Portland premiere of August Wilson's “Seven Guitars.” The play is currently running through Nov. 11 at the Morrison Stage in Portland.

“Seven Guitars” is part of Wilson's “Pittsburgh Cycle” — “a decade-by-decade anthology of African-American life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during the 20th century,” according to the play's study guide. The cycle includes the award-winning plays “Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,” “Fences” and “The Piano Lessons.”

Set in 1940s Pittsburgh, “Seven Guitars” centers around seven characters “living the blues.” “August Wilson wants to show us the color, lushness and muscularity of life,” said the play's director, Kevin Jones. “Blues lyrics are written into the script and make the music of the play equal to the words — a separate character.”

“Seven Guitars” opened at New York City's Walter Kerr Theatre on March 28, 1996. It won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, Drama Desk Award and a Tony Award.

Ticket prices range from $36 to $45, depending on the day of performance. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit www .artistsrep.org or call 503-241-1278.