The Prince George’s Community College Communication and Theatre Department is currently in rehearsals of August Wilson’s play, Two Trains Running, a story about civil rights era Pittsburgh.

“August Wilson didn’t write about famous people,” said Charles Weldon, the director of the play. “He wrote about people you’ve never heard of, who live in the house next door or the house down the street, and their struggles.”

Weldon is a veteran actor who has acted in a production of Two Trains Running himself. Weldon’s career includes working in films such as Stir Crazy and Malcolm X as well as appearing on primetime television shows, “Law and Order” and “New York Undercover.”

He’s brought years of experience to the play so it’s only natural that he’s using that experience to teach the students at PGCC – a process he said is coming along slowly but surely.

“I used to teach acting a lot and that’s what I find myself doing,” Weldon said. “At this point I’m doing more teaching than directing.

“At the same time you want to push to where they can get to the point to where they can start creating on their own,” he continued. “Some of them are getting there and doing that and I really appreciate that.”

Weldon is very hands-on with the students and actors. He doesn’t mind stopping a scene or changing a detail here and there to have the play make more sense. He’ll even talk to an actor in the middle of scene, something that PGCC acting teacher Gina Alvarado-Otero appreciates.

“I love when he just goes and whispers advice in their ears,” she said. “Some people may get flustered but the kids hear the advice and then they’re fine.”

Weldon said there are some distinct challenges with working with a school, however. He said that after a month of rehearsals with a professional acting company, a play would be ready for open. But with students, who have to worry about school and other time restrictions, it’s more difficult to get this play perfected.

“I know these kids can’t come to rehearsal until they get out of school,” he said. “You can’t rehearse more than four hours, which is totally different than professionals because then you can rehearse seven working hours.”

Weldon is also concerned with his other job as artistic director of the Negro Ensemble Company in Harlem, whose alumni list includes Phylicia Rashad, Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson.

Weldon said he didn’t mind taking the job, although he knew the school wouldn’t be able to pay him much. “All I say is help me so that I don’t lose money,” Weldon said. “My staff is always one the phone with me and when I woke up this morning I had a lot of messages. The natives are getting restless.”

Despite the challenges, the play is coming along and will be ready to open on March 31. Weldon says the experience has been invaluable to him.

“This is a good place to start directing,” he said. “The kids are trying. It’s good for me to go through this part of it because I plan to do a lot more of it.”

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO