August Wilson Festival Kicks Off Season at Arena Stage

By: Jul. 25, 2019
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August Wilson Festival Kicks Off Season at Arena Stage

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater will kick off the company's season-long August Wilson Festival on Friday, September 13, 2019 with performances beginning for Jitney. Ruben Santiago-Hudson directs the 2017 Broadway production - recipient of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play Revival. This is the first of two full productions as part of the Festival, which continues Arena Stage's tradition of showcasing the work of American Giants in the theater, following festivals for Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee and Eugene O'Neill.

Arena Stage is proud to celebrate the Pulitzer Prize-winning giant by showcasing a variety of discussions, events and panels that reflects August Wilson's legacy of American theater. Arena has produced nine out of the 10 plays in Wilson's American Century Cycle, which chronicles the black experience in America throughout the 20th century.

"When considering influential American Playwrights, August Wilson is clearly a giant among giants. While his American Century Cycle has been read and performed in its entirety and his plays are produced all over, we are focusing on the impact he has and how he changed the landscape of American theater," shares Artistic Director Molly Smith. "His ideas, language and artistry pulled American theater into the 21st century, before we had even gotten there ourselves."

The first event celebrating August Wilson will be a Designers Panel: Building the World of August Wilson. This will be held on September 16, 2019 in the Kogod Cradle and moderated by Constanza Romero Wilson, costume designer and collaborator. The panel will feature several designers who worked with Wilson and helped define the world of his plays, including members of the Jitney design team. A reception will be held from 6:30 - 7 p.m. with the panel taking place from 7 - 8:30 p.m.

Additionally, on September 16, 2019, students from Howard University and Georgetown University will take part in a private Master Acting Class with Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Students from both universities will share scenes they have prepared from August Wilson plays and dig deep into the Wilsonian acting style and craft with Santiago-Hudson.

Other events celebrating Wilson include a Writers Panel: On the Shoulders of Giants - August Wilson's Dramatic Legacy, which will take place between performances of Jitney on September 28, 2019 from 5:30 - 7 p.m. in the Molly Smith Study. This panel will feature contemporary playwrights inspired by Wilson and his work, including poet-playwright Marcus Gardley (Arena's Every Tongue Confess), with additional panelists announced at a later date.

Following the October 17, 2019 performance of Jitney, a post-show discussion with Paul Ellis, Wilson's nephew and executive director of the August Wilson House in Pittsburgh, PA, will take place in the Kreeger Theater.

Leading up to the production of Seven Guitars, Arena will host a Women of Wilson Panel on April 25, 2020 in the Molly Smith Study from 5:30 - 7 p.m. This will consist of a panel of women, including award-winning actress, director and producer Michele Shay (Broadway's Seven Guitars), who have originated and defined Wilson's strong female characters. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Soyica Colbert, chair of the Department of Performing Arts, director of Theater and Performance Studies and a professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University. Colbert was a dramaturg for Arena's 2018 production of Wilson's Two Trains Running.

Additional events include a documentary film screening centering around the life and legacy of Wilson and community discussion panels centering around relevant topics, including Gentrification in D.C. and African American Music and Society. Both panels are in collaboration with the August Wilson Society.

Additional information regarding dates and panelists will be announced at a later date. RSVPs are encouraged by visiting here.


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