The play I chose for this paper was Fences by August Wilson. Fences tell the story of Troy Maxson; a hard-working garbage collector survives in a northern industrial city in 1957. Troy is a great talker who entertains his friends and family with funny stories and yarns as they gather on his back porch. He had been an excellent baseball player in his youth. Unfortunately, he was prevented from playing in the major leagues because of the ban on black athletes. By the time Jackie Robinson broke the “color barrier” in 1947, Troy was past his ball playing age. The experience left him astringent. However, Troy is a responsible man who has worked very hard for his home and family. Now his second son, Cory, a gifted athlete, wants to attend college on a sports scholarship. Troy is strongly opposed to that idea because he claims Cory will only end up disappointed. He feels Cory should be practical and learn a trade so that he can support himself. As they fight over the issue, “fences” are erected. The play visibly does not require expensive sets, costumes or lighting. It does not need famous actors or a large stage.
The powers of Fences lies not in its tale, which has a tragic certainty, but rather in a sequence of scenes in which characters deliver long speeches in Wilson poetically portrays street language. A flesh-and-blood human being has to do this, not a reflected image. Fences are structured somewhat like a blues song. The play all takes place in one place like a key of music and the characters each have their own rhythm and melody that Wilson riffs off of around the common locale. Parallel to the role of recurring lyrics and melody of a blues song, Wilson’s characters show changes in their life and a changed attitude toward life by repeating scenarios in which they act. And to me instead of keeping the music in the background, I should enhance the play.
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