August Wilson

August Wilson (April 27, 1945 – October 2, 2005) was an American playwright. He has been referred to as the “theater’s poet of Black America”. He is best known for a series of ten plays collectively called The Pittsburgh Cycle, which chronicle the experiences and heritage of the African-American community in the 20th century. Plays in the series include, Jitney (1982), Fences (1984), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1984), Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1986), The Piano Lesson (1987), King Hedley II (1999).

Two of his plays received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and two of his other works won the Tony Award for Best Play. In 2006 Wilson was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

His works delve into the African American experience as well as examinations of the human condition. Other themes have ranged from the systemic and historical exploitation of African Americans, as well as race relations, identity, migration, and racial discrimination.

His work has drawn several iconic performances onstage from James Earl Jones, Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, and Samuel L. Jackson. Davis described Wilson’s writing by saying, “He captures our humor, our vulnerabilities, our tragedies, our trauma. And he humanizes us. And he allows us to talk.”

Since Wilson’s death two of his plays have been adapted into films, Fences (2016), and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020). Denzel Washington has shepherded the films and has vowed to continue his legacy by adapting the rest of his plays into films for a wider audience by saying, “The greatest part of what’s left of my career is making sure that August is taken care of”.

NFT Credits

Credit Type Production Season
PlaywrightJoe Turner’s Come and Gone 1996-97 Season