Kelvin W. Henderson, Romare Bearden, and August Wilson

8 May

By Michael Downing

I was in Rockville, Md. Over the weekend, attending the Rockville Fine Arts Festival, when I bumped into Mr. Kelvin W. Henderson, who was hosting a booth, filled with his own intriguing paintings.  His art immediately reminded me of Romare Bearden, whom August Wilson identified as a key influence.

Bearden 2

Bearden’s Jazz Village

Henderson 3

Henderson’s Jazz Scene (2005)

The musical references are obvious, as are references to black life, and the work of both artists is visually interesting and colorful.

Of course, Bearden’s art is more consciously and specifically collage, whereas Henderson’s art has smoother lines, typical in paintings.

I asked Mr. Henderson whether he had heard of Romare Bearden.  He said he had and that other people had made the comparison.  I also asked him if he had heard of August Wilson and he said he yes.

Among the collectors of Mr. Henderson’s work include Earl Graves of Black Enterprise magazine; Eva Clayton, former Congresswoman; Ed Gordon of BET News; Pepa of Salt ‘n Pepa; Julian Peterson of the Detroit Lions; Terri Cummings, former NBA basketball star; and Tavis Smiley, American talk show host.

Mr. Henderson and I talked for about 20 minutes and I bought two prints.  One appears above and the other is this:

Henderson 1

Henderson’s Jazz Scene (2001)

I plan to hang them together, as complimentary pieces, in my home.  I think that, taken together, they show the development of the artist over the course of several years.  In the 2001 piece, he is experimenting with shapes and colors.  By the time 2005 rolls around, he is adding texture to make the piece even more visually interesting.

For more information on Mr. Kelvin Henderson:


Telephone: 240-244-5070
Cell: 301-275-6219



‘The Kiln in Which He Was Fired’: Patti Hartigan to Write August Wilson Biography

1 Apr

Atria BooksBy CoCo Harris

The Atria Books imprint, 37 INK has announced the impending publication of the first major biography of August Wilson.

The New York Times reported that August Wilson: The Kiln Which He was Fired, will be penned by a former Boston Globe theatre critic, Patti Hartigan.

Hartigan plans to draw on her long time theater connection with Wilson and his work to construct a legacy biography with an intention of showing that the artist is not separate from the art.

Constanza Romero, widow of August Wilson, has also committed to cooperating along this process providing information as well access to the August Wilson papers and estate.

37 INK has a focus on African American literary fiction, history, memoir and narrative nonfiction and is led by Vice President and Publisher, Dawn Davis.

With the growing appreciation and exposure of Mr. Wilson’s literary legacy, those of us with new and old connections to his oeuvre look forward to the late 2019 release.

August Wilson Monologue Competition Winners Crowned for Pittsburgh Region

30 Mar

AWMC-logo-final-colorBy CoCo Harris

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette announced the winners of the local August Wilson Monologue Competition. This annual competition was held at the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh.

The event also celebrated the life of Bill Nunn who died in 2008 and who was a champion for the local competition.

The inspiration for the competition was sparked by two of August Wilson’s closest living collaborators, Kenny Leon and Todd Kreidler. Both were in attendance at this culmination of the national competition as Michael Washington was donned the 1st place winner. Washington, an 11th grader at Pittsburgh CAPA performed as Vera from “Seven Guitars.”

In the competition, each student performs a 1-3 minute monologue of his or her choosing from one of the ten plays in August Wilson’s Century Cycle and competes with other students first within their city before moving forward to the nationals.

There are currently nine cities sending high school students to the national competition including Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Dallas and Greensboro, N.C.

August Wilson Society Update (March 28, 2017)

28 Mar

august-wilson-society-logo-jan-2017-1By Michael Downing

The August Wilson Society has been very busy since gaining new life at last October’s Wilson Conference at Howard University.

Since then, the Society has elected new officers, developed strategies for membership/ fundraising, established an ongoing plan for creating educational materials (most recently a study guide for Fences), has established social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook, has added an AWS page to the August Wilson Blog, is in the process of creating a new website, and is currently focused on bringing the August Wilson Journal to life (in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh).

The mission of the Society is, in part, to serve as an “interdisciplinary learning community dedicated to commemorating Mr. Wilson by promoting the studying, the teaching, the researching, and the ultimate safeguarding of the rich legacy bequeathed to us in the form of 10 plays that chronicle the stories of African Americans from 1904 to 1997.”

The Society has been conducting monthly conference calls with all members, as well as supplementary calls with individual members who are responsible for the various projects listed above.

From my perspective, the most pressing issue is funding for the journal.  As mentioned in a previous post, the annual cost of the journal is $1,000.  At this point, my home institution, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, is funding half of that amount.  Therefore, we need an additional $500 to meet our goal.  I am confident that there is enough support out there for this project, which will open the door of opportunity to dozens and possibly hundreds of scholars over the next decade or two.

If you would like to contribute—and every bit helps—please visit this link.

The timeline is for all of the money to be in place by April 30, 2017.  At that time, I will complete the paperwork and schedule time to meet with Pitt in May to create the site.  It should be a very exciting couple of days.

I will pass along more information on the evolution of the August Wilson Society as it becomes official.  In the meantime, thank you for taking the time to read this and thanks for supporting the August Wilson Blog.

August Wilson Journal Needs Financial Support

18 Mar

DONATE REDThe August Wilson Journal is an emerging collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, and the August Wilson Society at Howard University in Washington, DC.

Slated for release later this year, the journal will be peer-reviewed, online, and open access.  The 14-page proposal has been approved officially by Pitt and we are negotiating details of the roll-out.  The website itself is scheduled to be created this summer, with the first call for papers to come in late summer or fall of 2017.

In the meantime, it costs $1,000 annually to keep the journal afloat.  Therefore, we welcome your contributions.  Click on the link above to access Howard’s donation page. All contributions will go to the non-profit August Wilson Society through Howard, with contributions in the immediate future going to support the journal.

If you are interested in contributing as an author, editor, reader, or if you have questions, please contact me at downing[at]

Dr. Michael Downing Interviewed for Article on August Wilson’s ‘Jitney’

2 Mar

Michael Downing

I am excited to report that the conversation I had with Nadine Matthews of the New York Amsterdam News a few months ago related to August Wilson’s “Jitney” has come full circle and has been published.

The article, titled, “Stage and screen acting vet Santiago-Hudson directs ‘Jitney’ on Broadway” appeared online on Feb. 9, 2017.

The excerpt:

Michael Downing, editor of the August Wilson website and blog and associate professor of English at Kutztown University, remarked, “The beats of the characters, the rhythms of the language, the overall flow and tempo … it’s like hip-hop onstage, punctuated by the regular ringing of the telephone. It crackles. The telephone itself is an excellent device for Wilson, as it enables him to add even more language nuance to the play. As has been established, Wilson’s ear is one of his significant strong points. With the telephone, we get to hear Becker and occasionally other characters speak into the phone and to other characters onstage. In this way, the play actually represents two levels of dialogue, an ‘internal’ voice, used within the jitney station and an ‘external’ voice, used to speak to customers.”

“Jitney” is one of my favorite Wilson plays.  Glad to see it getting solid treatment on Broadway by a legendary director.  It seems Mr. Wilson is getting the attention he so much deserves.

‘Fences’ Movie Comes to Villanova

26 Feb

By Mike Downing

fences-1Our friend, Ellen Bonds of Villanova University, tells us that Villanova is planning to provide students with opportunities to see the film, “Fences,” and to engage with scholars in a colloquium on August Wilson.

“Fences” will screen for three days:

March 27 (at 3:30 p.m.) March  28, and 29 (at 6:30 p.m.) in Connelly Cinema (main campus theater) in Connelly Student Center

The university will also be hosting a colloquium for graduate students and undergraduates on April 19, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.  Dr. Herman Beavers from the University of Pennsylvania and Suzana Berger (a dramaturge at U of Penn) will be the speakers.

Location TBA.

%d bloggers like this: