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Finding Humanity Amid Turmoil: PassinArt presents ‘Seven Guitars

Portland’s PassinArt Theater group presents “Seven Guitars,” a play from August Wilson that revolves around seven African American characters after the funeral of a friend in 1948. Part of Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle, the production is from an anthology of plays about African American life in Pittsburgh set in each decade of the 20th century.

The recurring theme of “Seven Guitars” is an African American man’s fight for his own humanity, self-understanding and self-acceptance in the face of personal and societal ills. Seven complicated characters strum their own blues melody of happiness, suffering, and hope in post-WWII Pittsburgh. The poetic dialogue reveals themes of friendship, self-acceptance in the face of harsh realities, and every human being’s desire to dream, love, and be loved.

“It’s one of his most difficult plays and it’s the most lyrical,” noted Seven Guitars’ director William Earl Ray, who has more than 40 years of award-winning experience as a director and actor in theater and film. “It’s a wonderful piece of writing.”

The Tony-nominated Seven Guitars is cast with local and nationally known Equity and veteran actors, including Portland’s Victor Mack and Atlanta-based Cycerli Ash, whose award-winning careers have graced stages, films and commercials.

PassinArt presents the play beginning with a preview performance on Thursday, March 12; opening night on Friday March 13; and running through April 12 at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center, 5340 N. Interstate Ave. Tickets can be purchased online or locally at JPs Custom Framing and Gallery, 418 N.E. Killingsworth St. Group tickets available online or by contacting the box office by email passinart@yahoo.com or by calling 503-235-8079.

As a companion to the play, PassinArt will also exhibit Racing to Change: Oregon’s Civil Rights Years, the Oregon Black Pioneers first pop-up kiosk based on its highly successful 2018 exhibit at the Oregon History Museum. The 10-foot-long, double sided kiosk features text and pictures that tell the story of the Black Power movement in Oregon as it played out in communities, colleges and activist organizations. It challenges the viewer to examine the unfinished business of civil rights in Oregon.

A 1948 gathering after the funeral for a friend is the backdrop to “Seven Guitars,” a dramatic play about African American life in the 20th Century by esteemed black playwright August Wilson. Portland’s PassinArt Theater group presents the play, Thursday, March 12 through April 12 at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center in north Portland. Pictured (from left) are cast members Josie Seid, Bobby Bermea, Steve Lee, Lydia Fleming, Victor Mack , Cycerli Ash and Jerry Foster.

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