James A. Williams and Pillsbury House Theatre are participants in the Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowships, funded by the William & Eva Fox Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group.
James A. Williams James has been a mainstay of the Twin Cities theater scene since 1976. He is a founding member of Penumbra Theatre Company, where he helped create new works with noted playwrights Carlyle Brown & Charles Smith. Penumbra also laid the foundation for two relationships that would run throughout his career working with Marion McClinton and August Wilson. During the 80’s James’s collaborative contributions were essential to the development of several touring shows with Illusion Theatre (For Adults Only, Family and Amazing Grace) that covered a wide variety of social justice issues including sexual violence prevention, building stronger families, and one the first HIV/ Aids education pieces in the country as well as creating main stage work with Steven Dietz, Matthew McGuire and Ping Chong.
During his 4-year stint in The Guthrie Theatre Acting Company from 1990 – 1994, he worked with a celebrated group of directors Including Doug Hughes, Bill T. Jones, Robert Woodruff and Bart Sher. Going into the new millennium, Williams has an extensive performing history in regional theater circuit with Centerstage, The Goodman, Mark Taper Forum, The McCarter Theatre , Seattle Rep and Yale Rep performing the works of August Wilson and Lorainne Hansbury under the direction of Marion McClinton, Tim Bond and Timothy Douglas. He performed multiple roles in the Kennedy Center’s August Wilson’s Century Cycle in 2008 and Off-Broadway in Jitney, My Children! My Africa! & August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson. The highlight of his stage career was to have Mr. Wilson create a character for him (Roosevelt Hicks) in his final play Radio Golf. He was one of three actors to remain with the show from its world premiere at Yale Repertory Theatre to its Broadway production.
While establishing a national profile James managed to deepen his commitment to the MN Theater community. As an artistic associate with Pillsbury House Theatre he was Artistic Director for Chicago Avenue Project for 2 years before officially coming on board as Director of Teen Programing where he originated Power of Our Voices, the teen social justice ensemble. He served as Co-director and acting coach for Seeds of Change program in St Paul using theatre to teach manhood skills to African American Boys and The Hennepin County Home School Theatre Project (a six week playwriting workshop teaching incarcerated youth to use theater as alternative path to express themselves).
He has led social justice theatre workshops at Brown University, Colby College, Macalester College, University of Minnesota, the International School of Kenya, Nshupu & Akeri secondary schools in Tanzania. Recent performances include Ian Smithton in Sharr White’s The Other Place (Park Square Theatre). Mohammed in Sharif Abu-Hamdeh’s Habibi (MN Fringe), Uncle Tom in Carlyle Brown’s Abe Lincoln & Uncle Tom (Carlyle Brown & Company) Ogun Size in Tarell Alvin MaCraney’s Brother/Sister Plays, Logger in Eisa Davis’s Bulrusher, Gospel of LovingKindness (Pillsbury House Theatre), Othello, (Park Square Theatre), and Troy Maxon in Fences for which he received an Ivey Award for performance excellence and was named 2008 Artist of the Year by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He been named best actor twice by City Pages (2008 & 2003). For his work with youth he received the 2012 Distinguished Global Citizen Award from Macalester College. He is a 2015 McKnight Theater @ the Playwrights’ Center Fellow and also a 2015 Fox Resident Actor Fellow.
James will performing in Pillsbury House Theatre’s Scapegoat in 2016.
The William & Eva Fox Foundation, a private grantmaking foundation, is committed to the artistic development of theatre actors as a strategy to strengthen live theatre. The Foundation is the largest grantmaker solely dedicated to the artistic and professional development of theatre actors, and one of very few that provides direct support to individual actors.