VIDEO: On This Day, October 2- Remembering August Wilson
On this day, we celebrate the life and legacy of legendary playwright August Wilson, who passed away on this day in 2005.
August Wilson authored Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars, Jitney, King Hedley II, Gem of the Ocean, and Radio Golf. These works explore the heritage and experience of the descendants of Africans brought to North America, decade-by-decade over the course of the twentieth century, and together, they form a compilation entitled The American Century Cycle.
His plays have been produced on Broadway, at regional theaters across the country and all over the world. In 2003, Mr. Wilson made his professional stage debut in his one-man show, How I Learned What I Learned. His works garnered many awards including Pulitzer Prizes for Fences (1987); and for The Piano Lesson (1990); a Tony Award for Fences; Great Britain's Olivier Award for Jitney, and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, as well as seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars, and Jitney. Additionally, the cast recording of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom received a 1985 Grammy Award, and Mr. Wilson received a 1995 Emmy Award nomination for his screenplay adaptation of The Piano Lesson.
His early works included the one-act plays The Janitor, Recycle, The Coldest Day of the Year, Malcolm X, The Homecoming, and the musical satire Black Bart and the Sacred Hills. Mr. Wilson received many fellowships and awards, including the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Fellowships in Playwriting, the Whiting Writers Award and the Heinz Award. He was awarded the 1999 National Humanities Medal by President Bill Clinton, and received numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities, as well as the only high school diploma ever issued by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He was an alumnus of New Dramatists, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a 1995 inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and on October 16, 2005, Broadway renamed the theater located at 245 West 52nd Street - The August Wilson Theatre.
Today, he is considered one of America's Finest Playwrights. New York Public Radio recorded all ten plays in The American Century Cycle at the Greene Space, casting many of the actors that worked on the original productions. PBS aired a documentary on Mr. Wilson entitled, "The Ground On Which I Stand," as part of the American Masters series. Recent Broadway productions of Fences and Jitney received Tony Awards for Best Revival. In December of 2016, a full feature film of August Wilson's Fences was released for which he received an Academy Award nomination, and Viola Davis won an Academy Award for her performance as Rose.
Mr. Wilson was born and raised in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and lived in Seattle, Washington at the time of his death in 2005. He is immediately survived by his two daughters, Sakina Ansari Wilson and Azula Romero Wilson, and his wife, costume designer Constanza Romero Wilson, who is the executor of his estate.