The Greene Space of NYC Announces Release of Audio Recordings of August Wilson’s Century Cycle

By Mike Downing

Phylicia_Rashad_GemYou may recall that, a few years ago, The Greene Space in NYC coordinated an historical event.  They brought in actors and directors to produce audio recordings of August Wilson’s plays, thereby committing the entire Century Cycle to permanent record.

At the time, I contacted The Greene Space and spoke with them about hosting the recordings, when they became available.  They told me to sit tight.

Well, after two years of production, I’m pleased to announce that August Wilson’s American Century Cycle, performed and recorded in the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, is becoming available on a limited-time basis.

The recordings will only be available now through August 26, 2015 and they will be released on a rolling schedule.  “Gem of the Ocean” and “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” are available now. The rest of the series will be released Sundays on a weekly basis.

Schedule of release dates:

April 26:            Gem of the Ocean and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

May 3:                Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

May 10:              The Piano Lesson

May 17:              Seven Guitars

May 24:              Fences

May 31:              Two Trains Running

June 7:               Jitney

June 14:             King Hedley II

June 21:             Radio Golf

August Wilson’s Birthday: April 27

By Mike Downing

Larry Glasco from the University of Pittsburgh talks about August Wilson at the Hill House Association’s Kaufmann Center in the Hill District on Saturday, April 25, 2015. To connect to the entire article by Christopher Rawson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, click on the image.

August Wilson would have been 70 years old today, and despite the fact that we miss him terribly and wonder what he might have produced if he would have lived these past ten years (there was talk of turning toward comedy, of which Mr. Wilson had a wicked sense of humor that comes through, from time to time, in his various plays).

To celebrate his 70th birthday, I’ve decided to review a number of recent developments that have commemorated the life and work of Mr. Wilson.

First, there is the PBS American Masters documentary The Ground on Which I Stand, directed by Sam Pollard.

Then there is the play, How I Learned What I Learned, brought to the stage by Mr. Wilson’s protégé, Todd Kreidler, and recently staged by the Pittsburgh Public Theater (among others).

And then there is the BBC radio documentary, August Shines, produced by Lenny Henry, who recently won the London Critics’ Circle award for his portrayal of Troy Maxson.

All of this happening as the August Wilson Center literally gets a new lease on life, as “Two Trains Running” closes its run at the Goodman Theater in Chicago, and as I prepare to host the third annual August Wilson Society panel at the American Literature Association in Boston on May 22, featuring Alan Nadel, Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, and Joyce Hope Scott.

It’s clear that Mr. Wilson’s legacy is thriving and what a great way to wish him a Happy 70th Birthday!

Opinion: Let’s Keep the AW Center Alive

Click image for the PG article.

By Mike Downing

According to Natasha Lindstrom of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust will “begin taking rental bookings for events in mid-May and beyond” at the August Wilson Center.

The Center is now owned by the Pittsburgh Foundation, which is in the process of appointing a permanent governance board to oversee the center.

Heinz Endowment President Grant Oliphant and Richard King Mellon Foundation Director Scott Izzo are also involved.

This is a great development.  August Wilson’s legacy is too important to Pittsburgh to abandon it too readily.  Were mistakes made the first time around?  Absolutely.  Can those problems be fixed?  I remain hopeful.

The biggest issue is revenue stream.  The center needs to see itself as a business, not as a community center.  I believe that if the initial organizers had a fault, it was that they were too generous with the facility.

In addition, from day one the center was plagued with debt.  Now it has a chance to start debt-free.

I do believe it is unfortunate that Mr. King has said that he “does not anticipate appointing any members who were on the center’s previous leadership teams.”  With all due respect, I believe that having access to someone with deep background knowledge of the center, such as Sala Udin, would help to bring a cohesive vision to the center and would help prevent the new leadership from falling into previous traps.

The Goodman’s Willa Taylor Explains Why Playwright August Wilson Matters

ByGoodman Theater Mike Downing

The Chicago Reader has posted an interview with Willa Taylor, the Goodman Theater’s director of education and community engagement.  Of Wilson’s plays, she said that Two Trains is her favorite, “because of the time period.”

She said the Goodman Theater is trying to make sure August Wilson’s work “gets taught in schools the way kids study Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, and Shakespeare.”

Two Trains Running at the Goodman Theatre runs through 4/19: Wed-Thu 7:30 PM, Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 2 and 7:30 PM $25-$79.

The August Wilson Gallery at the Pittsburgh Public Theatre

By Mike Downing

It’s amazing to see how the legacy of August Wilson has grown over the past 20 years. This is a photo of me, standing in the August Wilson Gallery at the Pittsburgh Public Theater on March 27, 2015.

We were there to see “How I Learned What I Learned.”

Wilson Gallery Panorama
Photo by Jasmine Lucas

Dr. Michael Downing Listed in Credits for “August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand”

By Mike Downing

Name in Credits
Photo by Jasmine Lucas

Was delighted to see that my name is listed in the credits for “August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand,” directly under Mr. Wilson’s daughters.

Very excited to be part of the project.  Thanks to director Sam Pollard and everyone at PBS for all of their hard work.

To obtain a copy of the documentary, see the March 30, 2015 post on this blog.