Henry Clay Middleton speaks about FENCES
When I was given the opportunity to play the lead once again in one of the greatest plays ever written by one of the most prolific playwrights of the 20th century, I didn’t have to think twice. I personally feel that in our local theatre community, there is very little seen in terms of quality productions that explore facets of the African American experience. There is none quite like Fences, which features a character like Troy Maxson, who a reviewer once described as “Shakespearean”.
There are certain aspects of Troy that remind me of my father. Not so much in terms of Troy’s escapades which invariably lead to the conflict within his world, but more of his no nonsense ideas of responsibility. His idea of love was not so much verbal ( although he did talk about loving during times of jest) but was shown by making sure his family was taken care of. He and my father shared a certain kind of strength typical of black men of this era. They grew up hard under the pressures of discrimination and poverty and yet survived, albeit with some scars. They were hard men who tried to live life on their own terms with very little room to compromise. They apologized for nothing, doing the best they could to make ends meet. Troy’s son Cory and I have something in common within the father son/ dynamic.
Troy’s wife Rose said it best in Act 2 Scene 5…
“Your daddy wanted you to be everything he wasn’t…..and at the same time he tried to make you into everything that he was.”
Of course Troy and my father didn’t intend for it to be that way, but here we are…very much our father’s sons.
One of the many interesting things about this play is how Troy’s life is interwoven with baseball, which has been called a thinking man’s game. I think it speaks to the complexity of Troy’s character and how he lived his life. Every pitch a different circumstance, each strike, raising the stakes. Troy was a great baseball player in the Negro Leagues who never made it to the “Big Show” for obvious reasons. Oddly enough, this play has nine scenes in it; just as the game of baseball has nine innings. August Wilson didn’t plan that. It just turned out that way. I call it Divine Providence; unheralded genius.
If I could ask August Wilson one thing it would be….”how did Troy come to you”? I can imagine us sitting on a porch not unlike the one at Troy’s house as he shared the “drama” that birthed this drama.
I hope that the audience leaves this play asking themselves the same question that I have been toiling with since we began rehearsals….what “fences” have I built in my life and which side of that “fence” am I on?
Henry Clay Middleton
A Big thank you to Henry for this interview. See him and a talented ensemble in FENCES. You won’t want to miss this story. Find your Ticket now HERE. Oct 16 – Nov 1 at South of Broadway Theatre 843-745-0317