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.

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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.

AmericanTheatre.org: August Wilson Most-Produced Playwright for 2016-2017 Season

August_Wilson_in_hatBy Mike Downing

According to AmericanTheatre.org, August Wilson was the “No. 1 playwright in America this season,” followed by San Francisco playwright Lauren Gunderson.

The magazine’s criteria is production: “This season’s most-produced playwright, August Wilson, has reached the top . . . a full 9 of his 10 plays are in circulation.”

In addition to Wilson and Gunderson, others on the list include Arthur Miller, Ayad Akhtar, Tennessee Williams, Tony Kushner, and Susan Lori-Parks.

The entire article is available here.

List of Actors and Directors for AW Greene Space Recordings

By Mike Downing

Beginning in 2013, The Greene Space in New York City brought together more than 100 theater artists to record August Wilson’s Century Cycle.  Although the audio recordings are not, at this time, available to the public, I wanted to take a moment and document the actors and directors involved in the project, in the case that, at some point in the future, the recordings might become available to the general public.

All of the material below is from The Greene Space website.  I put all of the information into this single post, as it was spread across ten separate web pages on their site. I did make minor format changes for the sake of uniformity.  The attempt here, as with all of my work on this site, it to preserve information related to August Wilson for posterity.

Plays are listed in written order.

Greene Space AW Panel
Panel discussion at The Greene Space

JITNEY
DIRECTED BY RUBEN SANTIAGO-HUDSON

Set in 1977 in a worn-down gypsy cab station in Pittsburgh, Jitney tells the story of men hustling to make a living driving jitneys — unofficial and unlicensed taxi cabs.

CAST:
YOUNGBLOOD…………Amari Cheatom
TURNBO……………….Stephen McKinley Henderson
FIELDING……………..Anthony Chisholm
DOUB………………….Barry Shabaka Henley
SHEALY……………….Harvy Blanks
PHILMORE…………….Ray Anthony Thomas
BECKER……………….Roscoe Orman
BOOSTER…………….J. Bernard Calloway
RENA…………………Joaquina Kalukango

MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM
DIRECTED BY RUBEN SANTIAGO-HUDSON

Set in 1927. Legendary blues singer Ma Rainey and her band players convene in a Chicago studio to record a new album. As their conversation unfolds, their bantering, storytelling and arguing raise questions of race, art and the historic exploitation of black recording artists by white producers.

CAST:
STURDYVANT……….George Morfogen
IRVIN……………………..Tuck Milligan
CUTLER………………….Charles Weldon
TOLEDO………………….Clarke Peters
SLOW DRAG……………Harvy Blanks
LEVEE……………………..Larry Gilliard
MA RAINEY………………Ebony Jo-Ann
DUSSIE MAE……………..Joniece Abbott-Pratt
POLICEMAN……………….Lucas Caleb Rooney
SYLVESTER………………..Jonathan Majors

With original music by Grammy-nominated composer Bill Sims, Jr.

FENCES
DIRECTED BY KENNY LEON

Set in 1950s Pittsburgh, Fences tells the story of Troy Maxson, a restless trash-collector and former baseball athlete who is struggling to provide for his family. Directed by Tony Award-winner Kenny Leon.

CAST:
TROY MAXSON…….Ruben Santiago-Hudson
JIM BONO………….Eugene Lee
ROSE………………..Elain Graham
LYONS………………Kevin Carroll
GABRIEL……………Ray Anthony Thomas
CORY………………..Jonathan Majors
RAYNELL……………Eden Duncan-Smith

JOE TURNER’S COME AND GONE
DIRECTED BY PHYLICIA RASHAD

Set in a Pittsburgh boardinghouse, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone tells the story of owners Seth and Bertha Holly and the makeshift family of migrants who pass through during the Great Migration of the 1910s.

CAST:
SETH HOLLY………………Keith David
BERTHA HOLLY…………..S. Epatha Merkerson
BYNUM…………………….Roger Robinson
RUTHERFURD SELIG…….Raynor Scheine
JEREMY FURLOW………..Jason Dirden
HERALD LOOMIS………..John Douglas Thompson
MATTIE CAMPBELL………January LaVoy
REUBEN MERCER………..Nile Bullock
MOLLY CUNNINGHAM…..Taraji P. Henson
MARTHA PENTECOST……Rosalyn Coleman
ZONIA LOOMIS………….Alexis Holt

THE PIANO LESSON
DIRECTED BY RUBEN SANTIAGO-HUDSON

The Piano Lesson is set in 1936 Pittsburgh during the aftermath of the Great Depression. The play deals with themes of family legacy, and tells the story of the Charles family and a brother and sister who have different ideas on what to do with the piano they own – keep or sell it.

CAST:
DOAKER…………..James A. Williams
BOY WILLIE………Brandon Dirden
LYMON……………Jason Dirden
BERNIECE………..Roslyn Ruff
MARETHA………..Alexis Holt
AVERY……………Eric Lenox Abrams
WINING BOY…….Chuck Cooper
GRACE……………Mandi Masden

TWO TRAINS RUNNING
DIRECTED BY MICHELE SHAY

Two Trains Running is set in 1969 in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. It tells the story of a local diner owner who fights to stay open as a municipal project encroaches on his establishment. His regulars must deal with racial inequality and the turbulent, changing times.

CAST:
MEMPHIS……….Chuck Cooper
WOLF…………..John Earl Jelks
RISA…………..Roslyn Ruff
HOLLOWAY……James A. Williams
STERLING……..Owiso Odera
HAMBONE……..Anthony Chisholm
WEST………….Harvy Blanks

SEVEN GUITARS
DIRECTED BY STEPHEN MCKINLEY HENDERSON

Set in 1948. A Blues singer just released from prison is asked to sign a record deal after a song he recorded months before becomes an unexpected hit. He is ready to right the past year’s wrongs and return to Chicago with a new understanding of what’s important in his life. Unfortunately his means of righting wrongs are inherently flawed.

CAST:
LOUISE……………..Brenda Pressley
CANEWELL………….Ruben Santiago-Hudson
RED CARTER………..Stephen McKinley Henderson
VERA………………..Aunjanue Ellis
HEDLEY……………..Lou Ferguson
FLOYD BARTON…….Jerome Preston Bates
RUBY……………….Cassandra Freeman

KING HEDLEY II
DIRECTED BY MICHELE SHAY

One of Wilson’s darkest plays, King Hedley II tells the story of an ex-convict trying to rebuild his life by selling stolen refrigerators so that he can save enough money to buy a video store. The play is set in 1980s Pittsburgh. Directed by Michele Shay.

CAST:
KING HEDLEY II……….Russell Hornsby
RUBY……………………Leslie Uggams
MISTER…………………Kevin Carroll
ELMORE………………..Stephen McKinley Henderson
TONYA………………….Marsha Stephanie Blake
STOOL PIGEON……….Arthur French

GEM OF THE OCEAN
DIRECTED BY KENNY LEON

Gem of the Ocean is set in 1904 in the Pittsburgh home of Aunt Ester, a 285-year-old former slave and renowned cleanser of souls. A young man from Alabama visits her for help in absolving the guilt and shame he carries from a crime he’s committed, and she takes him on a journey of self-discovery.

CAST:
ELI…………………………Eugene Lee
CITIZEN BARLOW………..Chadwick Boseman
AUNT ESTER……………..Phylicia Rashad
BLACK MARY…………….Joniece Abbott-Pratt
RUTHERFORD SELIG……Raynor Scheine
SOLLY TWO KINGS……..Anthony Chisholm
CAESAR………………….Keith Randolph Smith

RADIO GOLF
DIRECTED BY MARION MCCLINTON

Radio Golf is set in 1997 in Pittsburgh’s Hill District. It tells the story of a charming, powerful African-American politician who is running for the highest office of his career with the support of his savvy wife. As he steps into political prominence, his plans collide with his past.

CAST:
HARMOND WILKS………………..Rocky Carroll
ELDER JOSEPH BARLOW………..Anthony Chisholm
MAME WILKS……………………..Eisa Davis
STERLING JOHNSON…………….Eugene Lee
ROOSEVELT HICKS………………James A. Williams