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 was able to take his mother to see it, traveling by jitney. That was followed by a separate production at Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota. But Jitney then remained in Wilson's drawer while he sent a series of plays on to Broadway, until Eddie Gilbert, artistic director of the Pittsburgh Public Theater, read the 1979 script and asked to give it a full professional production.

In response, Wilson came back to Pittsburgh in 1996 to re-write it extensively for what can only be called its second premiere, directed by Marion McClinton—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, such as that at the Crossroads Theatre in New Jersey in spring 1997, directed by Walter Dallas, and in fall 1998, again directed by McClinton.[1]

Along the way, Wilson worked further on it in spurts. Finally Jitney arrived in New York City, off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre on April 25, 2000. It closed on September 10, but only because another play was coming in, when it moved to the Union Square Theater. The successful off-Broadway run is ironic, because Jitney is the only one of the 10 Pittsburgh Cycle plays not to appear on Broadway, presumably because Wilson's previous play had lost money, making investors leery. 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 made up for not playing Broadway by going on to London at the National Theatre, Lyttelton Theatre, from October 16, 2001, through November 21, 2001, where it won the Olivier Award for best play of the year—London's Tony. Directed by McClinton, it featured pretty much the same New York cast.[2] McClinton's production moved to San Francisco's Curran Theatre in early 2002.[3]

The play has been performed often in regional theater, for example at the Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C., in 2001,[4] the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in 2002, Ford's Theatre, Washington, D.C. in 2007,[5] and the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C., in 2008.[6]

Jitney is scheduled to premiere on Broadway in late 2016.[7]


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


Regular cabs will not travel to the Pittsburgh Hill District of the 1970s, and so the residents turn to each other. Jitney dramatizes the lives of men hustling to make a living as jitneys—unofficial, unlicensed taxi cab drivers. When the boss Becker's son returns from prison, violence threatens to erupt. What makes this play remarkable is not the plot; Jitney is Wilson at his most real—the words these men use and the stories they tell form a true slice of life.[8]

More on Plot Many stories are told. The complications with Darnell and Rena. In the past Darnell did cheat on Rena and they have a son together named Jesse. Rena thinks Darnell is at it again when he vanishes at hefty parts of the day and when their food money is gone. Darnell then comes clean about how he had been trying to buy a house. First upset about this discovery she explains to Darnell how idiotic it was to surprise her with a house, but Darnell explains due to his good intentions and how he's a changed man that sometimes Rena needs to let the past be the past. Becker and Boosters story is one of the main plots. Becker sees his son Booster after he served time for murdering a white woman after she (the white woman) claimed that she was raped by Booster. Becker's disappointment is evident throughout the play. Especially when Booster's legal troubles happened right around the time his biological mother was sick and dying. After serving time he goes to his father's Jitney station and tries to make amends. This is when his father and he argue and his father disowns him. When Becker dies at the end and the phone is ringing in the middle of the station everyone looks at Booster, he picks up the phone and says "car service", which symbolizes that Booster fills his father's place as the boss of the Jitney station.

Note Most of August Wilson's plays always tell the battle between a father and son's rocky relationship and/or the trouble found in a romantic relationship.

Awards and nominations[edit]



  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. ^ "Archive Page for 'Jitney'" albemarle-london.com, retrieved April 17, 2010.
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Jacqueline Trescott. "Jitney — August Wilson's Funky 70's Ride". SeeingBlack. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  5. ^ Nelson Pressley (27 January 2007). "At Ford's, Jitney Still Has Some Gas". The Washington Post. pp. C01. Retrieved 2008-09-28. 
  6. ^ "'Jitney' listing" kennedy-center.org, retrieved April 17, 2010.
  7. ^ David Gordon (16 May 2016). "August Wilson's Jitney to Receive Long-Awaited Broadway Premiere". TheatreMania. Retrieved 2016-06-01. 
  8. ^ Kyle Brenton (2012). "One Man's Century: August Wilson's Ten-Play Cycle". Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Retrieved May 12, 2012. 

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]