August Wilson
Lecture Date: 4-15-1998
Click the link below to listen ot his celebrity's lecture:
Interview: Joyce Ramsay, professor in the department of theatre at Michigan State University, introduces playwright August Wilson, by summarizing his impressive career in theatre. Wilson opens the lecture by talking about his past and what he has discovered about himself as a person. He speaks eloquently about his discovery of poetry, the theatre, and their importance in his life. The blues also had a large influence on his life and career. Wilson views the blues, not only as a celebration of the black experience in America, but as the foundation upon which he began his writing career. “[The blues] was the beginning consciousness of myself as a representative of a culture and the carrier of some very valuable antecedents. With my discovery of Bessie Smith and the blues, I had been given a world that contained my image…” His writings illuminate and articulate African American culture and the responses to that culture. Wilson continues by speaking about the importance of improvisation both in the blues and in the theatre. He reads some of his poetry, including a poem he wrote for his wife and a series of poems about a friend. The playwright goes on to divert the audience with the story of how he became involved in theatre. Wilson reads the beginning of one of his first plays, which is a very different style from those plays that he now writes. Wilson discusses and reads from his play King Hedley II (2001). After a question posed by the audience, he discusses changing his career from poet to playwright. Wilson explains that plays provide a larger canvas with which to work than poems. All of his plays are an attempt to define the "ocean" of life in which a man may drown or swim. Wilson is driven to be true to the African American tradition and culture in his plays.
Biography: August Wilson, an American playwright and poet, was born in Pittsburgh on April 27, 1945. His experiences growing up in a poor black community in Pittsburgh gained him valuable insight into the plight of blacks in American society, which he has drawn upon heavily in his plays. Widely regarded as today’s best known and most popular African-American playwright, Wilson has undertaken to describe the African-American experience by writing plays spanning every decade of the twentieth century. His works include Jitney (1982), Fences (1987; Pulitzer Prize), Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1988), The Piano Lesson (1990; Pulitzer Prize), Two Trains Running (1992), Seven Guitars (1995), and King Hedley II (2001).