AugustWilsonThe documentary feature AUGUST WILSON: THE GROUND ON WHICH I STAND receives a free public-welcome screening on August 19 at Two River Theater. The 7:30 pm event is just part of a slate of special happenings keyed to the Two River production of Wilson’s SEVEN GUITARS, opening September 12 as the first show in the new season.

Press release from The T. Thomas Fortune Project

A free documentary film screening, a Birthday Bash fundraiser for a celebrated figure in Red Bank history, a lecture on the legacy of a great American playwright. All this, plus a Soulful Cook-Off and a Bid Whist Tournament — and all of it keyed to the opening of Seven Guitars, the first production of the new 2015-2016 season at Two River Theater.

The latest in Two River Theater Company’s series of dramas written by August Wilson, Seven Guitars goes up in previews on September 12; opening on September 18 and running a limited engagement through October 4 under the direction of frequent TRTC lead actor Brandon J. Dirden. As an appetizer for that main course, the theater invites one and all to a free screening of August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand, on the evening of Wednesday, August 19. Scheduled for 7:30 pm inside the main Rechnitz auditorium at Two River, the documentary feature (originally produced as part of the PBS series American Masters)  offers an inside look at the Tony- and Pulitzer winning dramatist who examined African American life in the 20th century through his home turf of Pittsburgh’s Hill District. While admission is free of charge, seating must be reserved by calling the box office at (732)345-1400.

On Saturday, August 22, the theater on Bridge Avenue serves as host venue for a first-of-its-kind event: a Soulful Cook-Off and Bid Whist Tournament sponsored by Gilda Rogers and the board of the T. Thomas Fortune Project, the nonprofit initiative dedicated to the rescue and renovation of the historic T. Thomas Fortune House, onetime home of the pioneering 19th century African American journalist and publisher. Running between 4 and 8 pm, it’s an afternoon and evening of food, fun and live music that offers attendees an opportunity to meet the cast  and director of Seven Guitars, get a sneak peek at the set model for the show, and enter to win free tickets.

Cook-Off competitors can enter a favorite dish in any of seven featured categories (fried chicken/ BBQ ribs; collard/ turnip greens; macaroni and cheese; potato salad; cornbread; sweet potato pie; banana pudding). Each dish will be voted on anonymously by those in attendance and by the cast of Seven Guitars. The Top 3 vote getters will win a pair of tickets to the show, with winners announced at 6:30 pm. To enter into the Soulful Cook-Off, email by the deadline of August 19. Please include the subject line COOK-OFF as well as your name, telephone number and food entry category in the body of the email.

Beginning at 5 pm, the card tournament offers competitors a chance to enter with a friend, or be matched with a partner at the event. Partners who win best out of five games will each win two tickets to a performance of Seven Guitars at Two River. To enter the tournament, email by the deadline of August 19. Please include the subject line BID WHIST as well as your name, telephone number and food entry category in the body of the email.

Tickets will be on sale at these events for the third annual T. Thomas Fortune Birthday Bash fundraiser, The Power of the Pen: From Social Rights Journalist T. Thomas Fortune to Playwright August Wilson, scheduled for Sunday, October 4. Centered around the final 3 pm performance of Seven Guitars, the event includes food, music and a chance to meet the cast of the play. Also featured will be a 2:15 pm talk by New York Daily News journalist and editor Arthur Browne, with the Pulitzer Prize winning author discussing Samuel Jesse Battle, NYC’s first African American police officer and the subject of his book One Righteous Man. Tickets ($75) can be reserved by calling (732)759-0485, or by mailing a check to Thomas Thomas Fortune Project, c/o Red Bank Men’s Club Foundation, PO Box 2007, Westside Station, Red Bank, NJ 07701. Please include “Thomas Fortune Project” in the memo.

The evening of Tuesday, September 8 will also see another warm-up event prior to the opening of Seven Guitars, when TRTC artistic director John Dias hosts a lecture entitled August Wilson 101. Scheduled for 7:30 pm inside the upstairs Victoria J. Mastrobuono Library at Two River, the informative talk provides a background into the life of the dramatist who’s been called “America’s Shakespeare,” as well as the forces that shaped the ten plays of his seminal “American Cycle.” Admission is free of charge, but seating is limited and reservations are required by calling the box office at (732)345-1400.

More on the TRTC production of Seven Guitars to come in this space — and watch for details on the T. Thomas Fortune Project’s upcoming “Sip and Shop” fundraising event in Rumson.