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Troy Maxson in "Fences"

By November 27, 2012

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One of my favorite characters in modern theater is the complex protagonist in August Wilson's drama, Fences. Even before this domineering father and philandering husband walks out onto the stage, the setting reveals his character. By looking at his home and all of his surroundings, we gain a glimpse of his soul: his love of baseball, his hard work ethic, and his difficulty with maintaining a commitment.

But as much as the dialogue and the stage directions inform the reader as to the nature of Troy Maxson, there's still a lot of interpretive wiggle-room. As a reader, I might have one perspective of Troy Maxson; however, anytime an actor assumes the role (or any role for that matter) their own take on the character influences how the man is portrayed. For two stunning examples of diverse portrayals, check out Denzel Washington's performance on YouTube. He played Maxson on Broadway just a few years ago, and you'll notice from the crowds reaction that he plays the part with vitality and humor. Afterwards, be sure to compare Washington with the originator of the role, the iconic James Earl Jones. In his 1987 performance, he conveys Wilson's leading man as a father who demands the highest level of respect.

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