by Rita Charleston
“Fences” by August Wilson, a work that won Wilson much critical acclaim, including both the 1987 Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for “Best Play of the Year,” opened a brief run July 23 at Plays and Players, 1719 Delancey St. in center city, where it is being staged through Aug. 4.
Presented by GoKash Productions, the play focuses on Troy, the head of a household who struggles with providing for his family and an obsession with cheating death. Taking the role of Lyons, Troy’s son from a previous marriage, is Mt. Airy resident Brett Roman Williams. A 29-year-old graduate of Howard University with a degree in film production, Williams has become a sort of jack-of-all-trades whether in front of or behind the camera.
“Studying production teaches you the components necessary to bring things together to create a film project,” Williams said. “He’s essentially the person in charge of a business, and I never thought of doing anything else until I was living in New York and working as an intern in production for Focus Features. Eventually, I came back to Philly, where the production field is not as busy as it is in New York. I soon became bored and looked for something else to do, and that’s when I thought about acting.”
So Brett enrolled in Freedom Theater and the Walnut Street Theater to take acting classes. Soon, he said, he was “bitten by the bug,” eventually making his acting debut with GoKash Productions in 2011. Today, in addition to acting, Williams is also a writer, working on a television pilot, screenplays and more.
“I feel as though I have been blessed in many ways with many talents,” he said. And one of those blessings, he insisted, was being cast in ‘Fences’ which came about thanks to his friendship with the show’s director, Damien Wallace.
“It’s often very difficult to get a reading or audition for a play. But Damien suggested me to Kash Goins, the man in charge of this whole project. Because of that, I was asked to join the cast. I had been on my way back to New York, but doing ’Fences’ is such a rare opportunity. You just don’t turn down August Wilson, especially in my young acting career of just two years.”
First performed in 1987, this play as well as the others by Wilson continue to attract audiences everywhere. “And the biggest challenge is to do this play justice. I once heard a director refer to Wilson as the black Shakespeare, so we actors can’t afford to be lackadaisical and not be completely on spot when portraying the characters. This is classic theater, and we have to be serious about playing it just that way.”
Lyons, the character played by Williams, is a jazz musician chasing a dream. He’s a free spirit who just comes to see his father, with whom he’s never had much of a relationship, when he needs money. Williams said he’s thoroughly enjoying the play and his role. In addition to his acting and writing, Williams also worked part-time as the helicopter camera operator for news station, WPVI-ABC Channel 6 Action News.
For his future, Williams sees himself becoming a household name in television and movies both as an actor and producer. “I’m sure I’ll enjoy it all. Acting, especially, appeals to me,” he concluded. “As an actor you share the stories of humanity with the audience. You embody that humanity. Acting affects you and your audience in the moment and gives us all a chance to connect with each other.”