August Wilson (Author of Fences)August Wilson was an American playwright. His literary legacy is the ten play series, The Pittsburgh Cycle, for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Each is set in a different decade, depicting the comic and tragic aspects of the African-American experience in the twentieth century.
Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel, Jr. in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the fourth of six children to German immigrant baker, Frederick August Kittel, Sr. and Daisy Wilson, an African American cleaning woman, from North Carolina. Earlier, Wilsons maternal grandmother walked from North Carolina to Pennsylvania in search of a better life. His mother raised the children alone by the time he was five in a two-room apartment above a grocery store at 1727 Bedford Avenue.
August Kittel changed his name to August Wilson to honor his mother after his fathers death in 1965.
In 1968, Wilson co-founded the Black Horizon Theater in the Hill District of Pittsburgh along with his friend Rob Penny. His first play, Recycling, was performed for audiences in small theaters and public housing community centers. Among these early efforts was Jitney ,which he revised more than two decades later as part of his 10-play cycle on 20th century Pittsburgh.
In 1976 Vernell Lillie, founder of the Kuntu Repertory Theatre at the University of Pittsburgh two years earlier, directed Wilsons The Homecoming. Wilson also co-founded the Kuntu Writers Workshop to bring African-American writers together and to assist them in publication and production. Both organizations are still active.
In 1978 Wilson moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota at the suggestion of his friend director Claude Purdy, who helped him secure a job writing educational scripts for the Science Museum of Minnesota. In 1980, he received a fellowship for The Playwrights Center in Minneapolis. Wilson had a long association with the Penumbra Theatre Company of St Paul, which gave the premieres of some Wilson plays.
Wilson received many honorary degrees, including an honorary Doctor of Humanities from the University of Pittsburgh, where he served as a member of the Universitys Board of Trustees from 1992 until 1995.
Wilsons best known plays are Fences (1985) which won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award), The Piano Lesson (1990) (a Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award), Ma Raineys Black Bottom, and Joe Turners Come and Gone.
In 1994 Wilson left St Paul for Seattle, where he would develop a relationship with Seattle Repertory Theatre. Seattle Rep would ultimately be the only theater in the country to produce all of the works in his ten-play cycle and his one-man show How I Learned What I Learned.
Wilson was married three times. His first marriage was to Brenda Burton from 1969 to 1972. They had one daughter, Sakina Ansari, born 1970. In 1981 he was married to Judy Oliver, a social worker, and divorced in 1990. Wilsons third marriage was in 1994 to costume designer, Constanza Romero, with whom he had his second daughter, Azula Carmen.
In 2005, August Wilson received the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award.
Wilson reported that he had been diagnosed with liver cancer in June 2005 and been given three to five months to live. He passed away on October 2, 2005 at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, and was interred at Greenwood Cemetery, Pittsburgh on October 8, 2005.
Thea 3040 August Wilson and the Pittsburgh Cycle
Photo: The Yale Repertory Theatre. All nine of the plays on Broadway received Tony Award nominations for best play and two won Pulitzer Prizes. Learn more about each in the order they were written, below. Synopsis: Set in an unofficial taxi station threatened with demolition in , Jitney explores the lives and relationships of drivers, highlighting conflicts between generations and different concepts of legacy and identity. Talent: Directed by Marion McClinton. Synopsis: Set in in a Chicago recording studio the ten-cycle play not set in Pittsburgh , Ma Rainey examines racism in the history of black musicians and white producers, and the themes of art and religion.
August Wilson April 27, — October 2, was an American playwright whose work included a series of ten plays, The Pittsburgh Cycle , for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Each work in the series is set in a different decade, and depicts comic and tragic aspects of the African-American experience in the 20th century. Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel Jr. His father, Frederick August Kittel Sr. Wilson's mother raised the children alone until he was five in a two-room apartment above a grocery store at Bedford Avenue; his father was mostly absent from his childhood. Wilson later wrote under his mother's surname.
4. Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1984)
The plays are listed below followed by the year he wrote them, the decade they reflect and a mini plot summary. Aunt Ester returns in this modern story of city politics and the quest from two monied Pittsburgh men to try and redevelop an area of Pittsburgh. The plays are not connected in the manner of a serial story but characters do repeatedly appear at different stages of their lives and the offspring of previous characters also feature; the figure of Aunt Ester features most often in the cycle. Another dominating feature of the work is the presence of an apparently mentally-impaired character; examples include Gabriel in Fences and Hedley in Seven Guitars. Wilson also wrote other plays that are unconnected to the Pittsburgh Cycle - they are listed below with the year he wrote them.