“Smoketown” Author Mark Whitaker to Speak at Upcoming August Wilson Colloquium

Mark Whitaker
Mark Whitaker

By Mike Downing

The August Wilson Society, in conjunction with the city of Pittsburgh’s August Wilson Center for African American Culture, is hosting a three-day event, April 26-28, 2018, entitled “Go Back and Pick Up the Ball: An August Wilson Society Colloquium.”  The gathering will feature actors, directors, historians, educators, scholars, politicians, poets, members of the local Pittsburgh community, and others “who have been inspired to art and action by Wilson’s charge.”

In attendance will be Smoketown author Mark Whitaker, who is scheduled to address the gathering.

I don’t have specific information as to the nature of Mr. Whitaker’s presentation at this time, but I can provide biographical information that was provided to me:

From Pittsburgh Lectures.org

Mark Whitaker’s Smoketown is a captivating portrait of Pittsburgh’s renaissance of black culture, influence, and glamour from the 1920s through the 1950s.

Today black Pittsburgh is known as the setting for August Wilson’s famed plays about working-class strivers. But this community once had an impact on American history that rivaled the far larger black worlds of Harlem and Chicago. It published the most widely read black newspaper in the country, urging black voters to switch from the Republican to the Democratic Party and then rallying black support for World War II. It fielded two of the greatest baseball teams of the Negro Leagues and introduced Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Pittsburgh was the childhood home of jazz pioneers Billy Strayhorn, Billy Eckstine, Earl Hines, Mary Lou Williams, and Erroll Garner; Hall of Fame slugger Josh Gibson—and August Wilson himself. Some of the most glittering figures of the era were changed forever by the time they spent in the city, from Joe Louis and Satchel Paige to Duke Ellington and Lena Horne.

Smoketown depicts how ambitious Southern migrants were drawn to a steel-making city on a strategic river junction; how they were shaped by its schools and a spirit of commerce with roots in the Gilded Age; and how their world was eventually destroyed by industrial decline and urban renewal. Whitaker takes readers on a rousing, revelatory journey—and offers a timely reminder that Black History is not all bleak.

Original bio source here.

Colloquium information here.

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Constanza Romero to Attend Upcoming Wilson Colloquium at August Wilson Center

Constanza
Constanza Romero

By Mike Downing

The August Wilson Society, in conjunction with the city of Pittsburgh’s August Wilson Center for African American Culture, is hosting a three-day event, April 26-28, 2018, entitled “Go Back and Pick Up the Ball: An August Wilson Society Colloquium.”  The gathering will feature actors, directors, historians, educators, scholars, politicians, poets, members of the local Pittsburgh community, and others “who have been inspired to art and action by Wilson’s charge.”

In attendance at the conference will be Wilson’s widow and literary executor of the August Wilson Estate, Constanza Romero.  At this time, I believe time has been set aside by conference coordinators for discussion with Ms. Romero, tentatively entitled “A Conversation with Constanza Romero.”

I don’t have any additional information at this time, but I can provide information that was provided to me:

Constanza Romero has served as the literary executor of the estate of August Wilson since 2005. Countless works by the playwright, her late husband, have been produced nationally and abroad under Romero’s leadership. In 2016, August Wilson was the most produced playwright in the country.

As a producer, Romero helmed the Manhattan Theater Club’s Broadway production of JITNEY, in 2017, and Broadway’s FENCES, in 2010. Both won Tony Awards for Best Revival. With the release of Wilson’s FENCES as a major motion picture in 2017, Romero served as a key participant speaker with the film’s promotional screening tour and facilitated conversations about Mr Wilson with stars Viola Davis and Denzel Washington.

Ms. Romero’s costume for the character Aunt Ester in GEM OF THE OCEAN can be viewed along with other Wilson memorabilia at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. In another important step toward building and protecting August Wilson’s literary legacy, Romero has finished collecting the materials for August Wilson’s archives for future residence in a research library.

As a costume designer, Ms. Romero’s Broadway credits include THE MOUNTAIN TOP, FENCES (Tony Nomination), GEM OF THE OCEAN (Tony Nomination), SEVEN GUITARS, and THE PIANO LESSON.

She resides in Seattle with her daughter Azula Romero Wilson, finding time to practice her other passion, creating poster art for theaters and other nonprofit organizations.

For more information or to register for the conference, click this link.

Stanford’s Harry Elam, Jr. to Speak at Upcoming August Wilson Colloquium

Harry Elam
Harry Elam, Jr.

By Mike Downing

The August Wilson Society, in conjunction with the city of Pittsburgh’s August Wilson Center for African American Culture, is hosting a three-day event, April 26-28, 2018, entitled “Go Back and Pick Up the Ball: An August Wilson Society Colloquium.”  The gathering will feature actors, directors, historians, educators, scholars, politicians, poets, members of the local Pittsburgh community, and others “who have been inspired to art and action by Wilson’s charge.”

One of the scheduled speakers is Harry J. Elam, Jr., who currently serves as Senior Vice Provost for Education at Stanford University, Vice President for the Arts, Freeman-Thornton Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, and Olive H. Palmer Professor in the Humanities.

The tentative title for his presentation is: “August Wilson in the Age of Trump and Tweets”

I don’t have any more information on his presentation, specifically, but I can provide the following background information that was provided to me:

As a scholar of social protest theater, performance and popular culture, and African American drama, Dr. Elam enjoys sharing his fascination with theater as a means of social change with students through his teaching, advising, and directing.

He is the author and editor of seven books including, Taking It to the Streets: The Social Protest Theater of Luis Valdez and Amiri Baraka; The Past as Present in the Drama of August Wilson; and co‑editor of four books, including African American Performance and Theater History: A Critical Reader; Colored Contradictions: An Anthology of Contemporary African American Drama; The Fire This Time: African American Plays for the New Millennium; and Black Cultural Traffic: Crossroads in Performance and Popular Culture.

His articles have appeared in American Drama, Modern Drama, Theatre Journal, Text and Performance Quarterly as well as journals in Israel, Taiwan and Poland.  He has also edited and/or co-edited several critical anthologies.

Elam is also the former editor of Theatre Journal and on the editorial boards of Atlantic Studies, Journal of American Drama and Theatre, and Modern Drama.

He was elected to the College of Fellows of the American Theatre in April 2006. In August 2006 he won the Betty Jean Jones Outstanding Teaching Award from the American Theatre and Drama Society and in November 2006 he won the Distinguished Scholar Award from the American Society of Theatre Research. In July 2014, Elam received the Association of Theatre in Higher education’s highest award for theatre scholars, the Career Achievement Award.

In addition to his scholarly work, he has directed professionally for over twenty years: most notably, he directed Tod, the Boy Tod by Talvin Wilks for the Oakland Ensemble Company, and for TheatreWorks in Palo Alto California.

He directed Jar the Floor by Cheryl West and Blues for an Alabama Sky by Pearl Cleague, which was nominated for nine Bay Area Circle Critics Awards and was the winner of DramaLogue Awards for Best Production, Best Design, Best Ensemble Cast and Best Direction. He has directed several of August Wilson’s plays, including Radio Golf, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Two Trains Running, and Fences, the latter of which won eight Bay Area “Choice” Awards.

For more information or to register for the conference, click this link.

Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company is staging “King Hedley II” in April, on location, at the August Wilson Home

kinghedleyii
Russel Hornsby as King Hedley II

By Mike Downing

The Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company is staging August Wilson’s King Hedley II, on location, outdoors, at the August Wilson Home, 1727 Bedford Avenue, in The Hill District.

Tickets are $37.50 in advance, no surcharges. Door price is $42.50.

The performance is directed by Mark Clayton Southers.

For tickets, click this link.

Also: Here’s a review of the play from The Oregonian (2012).

August Wilson Society Announces Pittsburgh Colloquium: Event Scheduled for April 26-28 at August Wilson Center

cropped-augustwilsonBy Mike Downing

The August Wilson Society, in conjunction with the city of Pittsburgh’s August Wilson Center for African American Culture, has announced a three-day event, slated for April 26-28, 2018.

Entitled, “Go Back and Pick Up the Ball: An August Wilson Society Colloquium,”  the gathering will feature actors, directors, historians, educators, scholars, politicians, poets, members of the local Pittsburgh community, and others “who have been inspired to art and action by Wilson’s charge,” according to the Society’s press release.

Symposium participants will revisit Wilson’s American Century Cycle plays to “raise issues and fashion solutions to the concerns addressed in his work.”

According to August Wilson Society President and Founder, Dr. Sandra Shannon, “We hope to raise and answer significant questions raised in Wilson’s writings, such as, what wisdom can we glean from his memorable characters? How did Wilson reconcile his art with his politics? How can the lessons of the past help solve the problems of today?”

DSC05886The event will feature a keynote speaker, followed by roundtable discussions, breakout sessions, workshops, and performances of Wilson’s plays by the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company (Mark Southers, founder/ Producing Artistic Director).

A guided walking tour of the Hill District and the playwright’s boyhood home will be available to participants, as well as a“Happy Birthday, AugustWilson!” block party celebration on April 29 at Daisy Wilson’s Artist Community, Inc.

To register for the colloquium, click here.

The August Wilson Society (AWS) was founded within Howard University’s College of Arts and Sciences in spring 2006.. This group defines itself as an interdisciplinary learning community of instructors, students, performers, and theatre lovers who remain dedicated to commemorating August Wilson’s legacy by promoting the studying, teaching, researching, performing, and ultimately the safeguarding of the rich narrative of the African American past that Wilson has bequeathed to us in the form of 10 plays that chronicle the stories of African Americans from 1904 to 1997.

For more information:

Dr. Sandra G. Shannon, Founder/President The August Wilson Society 202-806-5443, awscolloquium@gmail.com

Ms. Janis Burley Wilson, President/CEO The August Wilson Center for African American Culture 412-471-6070, BurleyWilson@AACC-AWC.org

August Wilson Society Announces Call for Papers for Upcoming Colloquium

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“Go Back and Pick Up the Ball” conference to be held April 26-28, 2018 at August Wilson Center

By Melonnie Walker

The August Wilson Society has announced a call for papers for its 2018 symposium event: “Go Back and Pick up the Ball: An August Wilson Society Colloquium” to be held April 26-28, 2018 in Wilson’s hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa.

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The three-day event, co-sponsored with the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, will be held at the Center’s location, 980 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

The event will feature of performers, directors, historians, scholars, politicians, Pittsburgh community members, and others who have been inspired by Wilson’s legacy.

The CFP includes proposals for panels, performance pieces and papers that embrace the central theme through the prism of Wilson’s art and politics.  Information on the call for papers can be found here: Press Release.

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Activities for the weekend will include a keynote speaker, breakout sessions, workshops and performances of Wilson’s plays by the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company.

Participants will also have the opportunity to take part in a guided walking tour of Wilson’s Hill District neighborhood and the “Happy Birthday, August Wilson!” block party at Daisy Wilson Artist Community, Inc. on April 29.

To register for the Colloquium, visit the AWS website at: www.augustwilsonsociety.org

Hotel Reservations for the event can be made at: Colloquium Hotel Accommodations

Drury Plaza Hotel Pittsburgh
745 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
412-281-2900
drury@druryhotels.com

The August Wilson Society (AWS) was founded within Howard University’s College of Arts and Sciences in spring 2006, shortly after the passing of August Wilson at age 60. This group defines itself as an interdisciplinary learning community of instructors, students, and theatre lovers who remain dedicated to commemorating August Wilson’s legacy by promoting the studying, teaching, researching, performing, and ultimately the safeguarding of the rich narrative of the African American past that Wilson has bequeathed to American Culture in the form of 10 plays that chronicle the stories of African Americans from 1904 to 1997.

Vodun Animism

Vodun
Cavin-Morris Gallery

By Mike Downing

I found this today and wanted to share it.

I’ve been working on some thoughts connected to vodun, animism, and August Wilson.

I will have more to share some time down the road, but for now, check out the article from Cavin-Morris Gallery.  It’s pretty cool.