Call for Papers: August Wilson Author Society through the American Literature Association (ALA CFP 2017)

26 Sep

Wilson as FencesBy Mike Downing

The August Wilson Author Society has announced its fifth annual call for papers for the 28th annual American Literature Association Conference, to he held in Boston, Mass., May  25-28 at the Westin Copley Place, 10 Huntingdon Avenue, Boston.

Fifteen-minute papers are invited for a panel session on any aspect of August Wilson’s work.

Please send one-page proposals, including paper title, author name, academic affiliation, and email address as a Word document to Michael Downing (   Three papers will be selected.

Deadline for proposal submissions: January 22, 2017.

Conference Director: Olivia Carr Edenfield, Georgia Southern Unviersity

Conference Fee: For those who pre-register before April 15, 2017: $90
($60 for Graduate Students, Independent Scholars, and Retired Faculty).

After April 15, the fees are $100 and $75, respectively. Additional details about the conference are available here.

Questions?  Contact Dr. Downing at the email address listed above.

For a PDF version of this CFP, click here.


“Ma Rainey” Opens at Two River Theater in Red Bank, N.J.

10 Sep


By Mike Downing

August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” opens today and is slated to run through Oct. 9 at Two River Theater in Red Bank, N.J.

Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, the play looks at the music business of the 1920s, an era when black artists were taken advantage of by white record producers.

The titular character is based, of course, on the legendary singer Ma Rainey (played by Arnetia Walker), who was born Gertrude Malissa Nix Pridgett (1886-1939) in Columbus, Georgia.

In the play, Ma is keenly aware of the situation she’s in and does her best to provide for her partner, Dussie Mae (Chante Adams), and her nephew, Sylvester (Marcel Spears), as well as the members of her band.

Much of the play consists of banter between the musicians: Cutler (James A. Williams), Toledo (Brian D. Coats), Levee (Brandon J. Dirden), and Slow Drag (Harvey Blanks), who talk earnestly about their lives and beliefs.

Irvin is played by Michael Cumpsty and Sturdyvant is played by Peter Van Wagner.

Additional information on behind-the-scenes artists/ production crew is available on the Two Rivers website.

Wilson wrote the play in 1982.  It premiered on Broadway on Oct. 11, 1984, directed by Lloyd Richards.

Hill District’s Cliffside Park Restored and Renamed “August Wilson Park”

28 Jul

AWP-park-gallery-3By Mike Downing

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy has announced that the former Cliffside Park in Pittsburgh’s Hill District has been restored and renamed “August Wilson Park.”

The accessible park features quotes from some of Wilson’s plays and will officially open with a community celebration on Aug. 6.


Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” to be Staged at his Childhood Home in August 2016

27 Jul

By Mike Downing

photo posted on post-gazette.comAs part of the “August in August” series, the Pittsburgh Playwright’s Theater Company will present “Seven Guitars” every weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) in August 2016 (5-7, 12-14, 19-21 and 26-28) beginning at 8 p.m.

Performances will be held at 1727 Bedford Avenue, in the backyard of the childhood home of August Wilson.

Tickets are $35. Seniors 65+ and Hill District residents pay $25 for the first two weekends only. Students with ID pay $25 at the door, first three weekends only.

Opening night fundraiser on August 5th with food and drink is $100 for all tickets.

Tickets are available here.



August Wilson Society 10th Anniversary Conference Slated for October 2016

26 Jul

By Mike Downing

August_Wilson_in_hatThe August Wilson Society, coordinated by Professor Sandra Shannon at Howard University, has announced a national conference to “assess the life and legacy” of playwright August Wilson.

The event is slated for Oct. 6-8 at Howard University in Washington, DC.  Abstracts will be accepted until August 8, 2016.

For more information, contact Dr. Shannon at or 202-806-5443.

Theater News: Jerald Gary, 30, Buys Historic Regal Theater in Chicago to Restore and Use with Art Non-Profits

20 Jul

From my friends at Good Black News…


IMG_7736 Jerald Gary (Photo credit: Melanie L. Brown for Steed Media Service)

article by Melanie L. Brown via

Rolling out interviewed Jerald Gary, the new owner of the New Regal Theater in Chicago. The 30-year-old talked about his memories of the Regal and how he came to acquire this historic building on the South Side.

Who is Jerald Gary?

I am a private equity investor. I bought the Regal Theater in 2014 to provide access to the performing arts for the community. I created the Chicago Regal Foundation to use the theater as a cultural asset that the community can leverage through various arts nonprofits. My day to day is figuring out how to render capital of the community more active and productive.

What is some history that you’ve heard about the Regal?

When I was growing up, the Regal was really in its prime. It reopened in 1987…

View original post 667 more words

Update: June 17, 2016: Denzel Films Fences in Pittsburgh

17 Jun

By Mike Downing

It’s been a while since my last post.  My attention is getting pulled in too many directions because I have too many August Wilson projects.  It’s all good, but emerging responsibilities are preventing me from attending to the blog.

Specifically, I’m working on an essay and a book related to Wilson, along with revising the official proposal for the August Wilson Journal.  I’m also trying to think about classes for fall, which includes revising syllabi and revising a journalism handbook that I’ve written specifically for my journalism writing classes.

Actually, I’d like to take this opportunity to advertise the fact that if anyone out there might like to take over this blog, please contact me.  I would love it if someone could commit to one post per month.  I can help with details, but it’s going to get increasingly difficult for me to attend to this project, especially once the journal is established.

I’m at downing[at]

The latest on Wilson:  I am totally excited about Denzel Washington’s filming of Fences in Pittsburgh.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has published 11 photos of some of the people and props to be used in the film, particularly several of the vintage vehicles.

Click here for the link to the article.  I’ve posted three of the photos above.



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