Jitney (play)

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Jitney handbill.jpg
Written by August Wilson
Date premiered 1982
Place premiered Allegheny Repertory Theatre
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Original language English
Series The Pittsburgh Cycle
Genre Drama
Setting 1977, a worn-down gypsy cab station in Pittsburgh's Hill District

Jitney is a play in two acts by August Wilson. The eighth in his "Pittsburgh Cycle", this play is set in a worn-down gypsy cab station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in early autumn 1977.


Jitney was written in 1979 and first produced at the small Allegheny Repertory Theatre, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1982. When Wilson took his mother to see that production they arrived by jitney. That was followed by a separate production at Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota. After Wilson had a series of plays produced on Broadway, Eddie Gilbert, artistic director of the Pittsburgh Public Theater, read the 1979 script and asked to produce it.

In response, Wilson returned to Pittsburgh in 1996 re-writing it extensively for what is referred to as its professional premiere, which was directed by Marion McClinton. This was the first Pittsburgh Cycle premiere not to be directed by Lloyd Richards. Over the next four years there were up to 20 productions nationwide, many with the same core cast as in Pittsburgh, including the 1997 production at the Crossroads Theatre in New Jersey, which was directed by Walter Dallas, and the 1998 production at Boston's Huntington Theatre Company, directed by McClinton.[1]

Wilson continued working on the script. Jitney opened Off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre on April 25, 2000 and closed on September 10, because another play was coming in. [2] The play next moved to the Union Square Theatre on September 19, 2000 where it closed on January 28, 2001.[3] Jitney ran successfully Off-Broadway, and was the only one of the 10 Pittsburgh Cycle plays not to appear on Broadway, possibly because Wilson's previous play had lost money, making investors cautious. Directed by Marion McClinton, the cast featured four actors who had been with it almost continuously since 1996: Anthony Chisholm (Fielding), Paul Butler (Becker), Willis Burks (Shealy) and Stephen McKinley Henderson (Turnbo).

Jitney went on to London, and ran at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre from October 16, 2001, through November 21, 2001. It won the Olivier Award for best play of the year. Directed by McClinton, it featured much of the New York cast.[4] [5]

McClinton's production moved to San Francisco's Curran Theatre in early 2002.[6]

The play has been performed often in regional theater, including at the Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C., in 2001,[7] the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in 2002, Ford's Theatre, Washington, D.C. in 2007,[8] and the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C. in 2008.[9]

The Broadway premiere of Jitney began previews at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on December 28, 2016 and opened on January 19, 2017.[10][11] The play, produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club, is directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson.[12]


  • Shealy
  • Becker
  • Fielding
  • Philmore
  • Turnbo
  • Doub
  • YoungBlood/Darnell
  • Booster
  • Rena
  • Jesse


Regular taxi cabs will not travel to the Pittsburgh Hill District of the 1970s, and so the residents turn to jitneys—unofficial, unlicensed taxi cabs—that operate in the community. This play portrays the lives of the jitney drivers at the station owned by Becker.

One of the jitney drivers, Darnell Williams and his girlfriend Rena Youngblood, have a complicated relationship. They have a son named Jesse. In the past Darnell has cheated on Rena, and now Rena thinks Darnell is again being unfaithful —this time with her sister, because he disappears at times during the day and night, and also because, without explanation, he takes the money they were saving for food. Finally it is revealed that Darnell has been going around with Rena’s sister in order to shop for a new house for himself and Rena. All is forgiven.

Becker's son, Clarence (nicknamed Booster), returns from prison. Booster has been in incarcerated because he murdered his lover, a white woman, because she lied when she claimed that she had been raped by Booster. When Booster is finally released after serving his sentence, he finds that his father, who never visited him in prison, is profoundly disappointed that his son is a murderer, and also because Booster’s conviction occurred at the time his biological mother was sick and dying. Booster has come to his father's jitney station hoping to make amends. He and his father argue, and his father disowns him. When Becker dies at the end, Booster appears to be taking his father's place as the boss of the jitney station.[13][14]

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 2001 Lucille Lortel Award, Outstanding Scenic Design, David Gallo
  • 2000 Drama Desk Award
    • Outstanding Scenic Design of a Play, David Gallo
    • Special Award, Outstanding Ensemble Performance
  • 1999-2000 OBIE Award
    • Performance, Ensemble
    • Direction, Marion McClinton
  • 2000-2001 Outer Critics Circle Award, Outstanding Off-Broadway Play
  • 2000 Drama Critics' Circle Award, Best Play, August Wilson
  • 2000 Henry Hewes Design Award, Scenic Design, David Gallo


  1. ^ Christopher Rawson (June 25, 2000). "Stage Reviews: Wilson's 'Jitney,' 'King Hedley II' have become clearer, tighter since leaving Pittsburgh". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 12 May 2012. 
  2. ^ " Jitney Second Stage Theatre" lortel.org, retrieved January 20, 2017
  3. ^ " Jitney Union Square Theatre" lortel.org, retrieved January 20, 2017
  4. ^ "Archive Page for 'Jitney'" albemarle-london.com, retrieved April 17, 2010.
  5. ^ " Jitney Lyttelton" theatricalia.com, retrieved January 20, 2017
  6. ^ Michael Scott Moore (20 March 2002). "Jitney: A fresh look at August Wilson's first play, an intense story about cabdrivers in a black area of Pittsburgh". SF Weekly. Retrieved 2016-06-01. 
  7. ^ Jacqueline Trescott. "Jitney — August Wilson's Funky 70's Ride". SeeingBlack. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  8. ^ Nelson Pressley (27 January 2007). "At Ford's, Jitney Still Has Some Gas". The Washington Post. pp. C01. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  9. ^ "'Jitney' listing" kennedy-center.org, retrieved April 17, 2010.
  10. ^ David Gordon (16 May 2016). "August Wilson's Jitney to Receive Long-Awaited Broadway Premiere". TheaterMania. Retrieved 2016-06-01. 
  11. ^ Lindsey Sullivan (30 November 2016). "The Cast of August Wilson's Jitney Is Poised for the Play's Broadway Debut". Broadway.com. Retrieved 2017-01-06. 
  12. ^ Viagas, Robert (January 19, 2017). "See What the Critics Had to Say About August Wilson's Jitney on Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved January 20, 2017. 
  13. ^ Kyle Brenton (2012). "One Man's Century: August Wilson's Ten-Play Cycle". Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 
  14. ^ Wilson, August. Jitney. Samuel French, Inc. (January 11, 2011). ISBN 978-0573627958

Further reading[edit]

  • Brad Bradley (9 April 2001). "Jitney". curtainup. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  • Wilson, August (2000). Jitney (First ed.). Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press. ISBN 1-58567-186-X. 

External links[edit]