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Actor reviewed in New York Times for 'Fences' performance

Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Actor reviewed in New York Times for 'Fences' performance

The cast of Fences
OU alumnus Esau Pritchett (back row, far left) with the cast of "The Fences." Pritchett is among those to be honored at the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance MaTilDa Awards. 
In light of his stellar accomplishments, OU alumnus Esau Pritchett will be honored with the 2014 MaTilDa Award for Alumni Achievement in Theatre. The annual MaTilDa Awards are presented by Oakland’s Department of Music Theatre and Dance and recognize students, alumni and community members who have made outstanding contributions to the arts.  

Pritchett caught the acting bug in the late 1990s while taking an introductory theatre course at OU. After a friend reportedly dared him to audition for a show, the Saginaw native was cast in several campus productions, including “All My Sons,” “Twelfth Night,” and “Othello,” for which he was named one of only two national winners of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship.

After graduating from Oakland with a B.A. in Performing Arts, Pritchett moved to New York to carve out a career on stage and screen. He has starred in “A Free Man of Color” at Lincoln Center in New York, and his film and television credits include long-running shows like “Law & Order” and “One Life to Live.” His most recent film, “The Haunted Secret,” features awarding-winning actor Richard Chamberlain.

Earlier this year, Pritchett was hailed in a New York Times theater review for his work in a production of August Wilson’s “Fences” at the McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey. It was directed by Three-time Emmy nominee Phylicia Rashad, who gained fame playing Clair Huxtable on the popular sitcom “The Cosby Show.”

In “Fences,” Pritchett played the role of Troy Maxson, delivering what the Times called “a potent and fearsome portrayal.” According to the article, Pritchett’s portrayal “contains multitudes — a principled laborer, a former criminal, an enamored husband, a womanizer — and makes those contradictions not just believable but undeniable. It’s a thrilling performance in a production that’s more ready to explore an angry man’s power than to serve a play’s poetry."

Michael Gillespie, emeritus professor of theatre, worked with Pritchett at OU and describes him as “a very powerful actor with tremendous stage presence.”  He referred to Pritchett’s character in “Fences” as “the engine that drives the play.”

Pritchett will be recognized with other MTD student, alumni and community honorees at the 15th annual MaTilDa Awards on Sunday, April 13 at 6 p.m. at the Royal Park Hotel (see event details).