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

Harry Elam
Harry Elam, Jr.

By Michael 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.

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