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WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO GET FAMILIAR WITH 'FENCES' THE PLAY

buzzz worthy. . .
By Mona Austin

Critics agree that "Fences" starring Oscar winners Denzel Washington and Viola Davis is one of the best films of 2016. However, because it was originally a Pulitzer Prize winning play some of the nuances and motifs that playwright August Wilson executed on stage were lost in the film adaptation some reviewers are saying. A film that explores the troubles of black manhood during 1950s Pittsburg in such an intricate manner and the impact it had on the family structure and black community at large deserves to be understood as it was intended.


Denzel Washington ad Viola Davis in "Fences."
The most obviously centered metaphor Wilson uses is a literal fence. For the woman of the house (Davis) who asked that it be built it is postive, protective. The son who is building it uses the fence as a barrier to keep her out emtoionally. One of the lessons in "Fences" is that not dealing with self-imposed or circumstantial conflicts can lead to generational curses. This factor alone is reason enough for additional reasearch and analysis on the story.

Twenty to 30 years ago, Wilson's work was commonly discussed in high school English or Lit courses. Today, black historic works are not as integral in U.S. high school curriculum. The deprivation of education on the social and historic meaning of black life in America is starving for attention and clarity in modern times. In this Internet/social media age we have been conditioned to watch versus read. With "Fences" it is important to do both. It's not that it is necessary to understand the work academically. It is moreso that without further study the historic context may be overshadowed. It's the kind of information that helps us understand why the FX Network's "ATL," a program that focuses on young African American men attempting to break the cycle of hardship, still has traces of Wilson's characters in it over 60 years later. "Fences" ultimately shows that the reality is the story for many African American men in inner cities has not changed much, a message that Black Lives Matter supporters have attempted to keep relevant in their quest for social justice and racial equality.

I strongly suggest doing research on the play by reading the book or script. Becoming familiar with "Fences" as a written work will broaden one's perspective on understanding the significance of Black Lives Matter, the prison industrial complex, the broken family, etc. Like so many period pieces that have been released in the last several years, "Fences" acts a conversation starter, a relevance builder and a document that reflects the truth of the African American experience when detractors would otherwise blot out oppressive race relations.

Both Washington and Davis were nominated for Golden Globe Awards for their performances in the acting category. "Fences" is in theaters nationwide.