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HEARING VOICES  
August Wilson's Two Trains Running (directed by Lloyd Richards) embodies the black experience of the late 60's

[[image: black and white photo of stage production of Two Trains Running]]
[[credit]] JAY THOMPSON [[/credit]]
[[caption]] Larry Fishburne romances Cynthia Martells in Two Trains Running at the Walter Kerr [[/caption]]

Lloyd Richards was a child of the Great Depression of the 1930's, and August Wilson almost didn't make it through the 1960's. They are a whole generation apart, and yet there is a tie that binds them: the voices, the voices.

These are the voices that Wilson puts into the plays that are brought to the stage under the direction of Richards, who knows the music and poetry and pain and laughter from his own youth, his own bloodstream. They have won, the two men, all sorts of awards, including two Pulitzers to the playwright for Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990), to which there might now just be added a third for the no less powerful and evocative Two Trains Running.

Richards initially heard these voices back in 1982, when, as artistic director of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center and dean of the Yale School of Drama, he first took a look at two short plays by an aspiring playwright named August Wilson (they were set in a 1920's radio control room and would ultimately be fused together as Ma Rainey's Black Bottom).

"The characters came off the page to me. I knew them - the music of the play as it comes from the people. I had experienced the very same characters in my own life."

The give-and-take in those two short plays had swept Richards back to the talk that filled the air of Your Barber Shop on Milford Avenue on the west side of Detroit, where he would go on Saturday afternoons when he was growing up in - "oh gosh, I forget when" - the early thirties. "All these guys would be sitting around discussing politics, music, metaphysics, everything."

That kind of talk sings and simmers through every one of the August Wilson plays we have had so far, the most profound and sustained dramatic embodiment of the black experience (or memory experience) in America from post-Civil War to now. And it fills the air of Memphis's restaurant on Pittsburgh's Hill in Two Trains Running in the late 1960's when Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. are freshly dead, but the old, old tangle of insults and problems, and angers and aspirations, is very much alive.

"The first lines I wrote for Two Trains Running" says the man who wrote them, "were Memphis saying: 'When I left out of Jackson, I said I was gonna buy me a V-8 Ford and drive by Mr. Henry Ford's house and honk the horn. If anybody come to the window I was gonna wave. Then I was going out and buy me a 30.06, come on back to Jackson and drive up to Mr. Stovall's house and honk the horn. Only this time I wasn't waving. Only thing was it took me thirteen years to get the 

8    by Jerry Tallmer

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