Mirror, Mirror: The American Family in the Twentieth Century

August Wilson  (1945 - )

Fences

Background

  • Born Frederick August Kittel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1945; son of a baker and a clearning woman.
  • Largely self-educated; dropped out of high school in disgust at racist treatment.
  • Three marriages, the second to a social worker, the third to a costume designer.

Career

  • Received numerous awards for his work, including the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984-85) and  two Pulitzer Prizes for Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990).
  • Goal to write a cycle of plays, one set in each decade of the twentieth century and focused on the major issues confronting African Americans during those decades.
  • Founded Black Horizons on the Hill Theatre Company in Pittsburgh.
  • Invited to write plays for a black theater company in St. Paul, Minnesota; moved to St. Paul, where he wrote the first play of his projected cycle, Jitney.
  • Formed a professional friendship with Lloyd Richards of the Yale Repertory Theater who introduced many of his plays to the public and guided Wilson through the extensive rewriting they underwent.

Major Writings

Jitney (1982)
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1984)
Fences (1985)
Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1986)
The Piano Lesson (1987)
Two Trains Running (1990)
Seven Guitars (1995)
King Hedley II (1999)

Critical Sources and Reviews

  • Biographical and critical information in the following Gale publications: Contemporary Authors, Volumes 115 and 122, Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, Volumes 42, 54, and 76; and Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volumes 39, 50, 63, and 118 .  Gale Literary Databases (Contemporary Authors Online) can be accessed online through a subscribing library at www.galenet.com.   (Volume 26 above contains portrait.)

    Other Gale publications that include Wilson materials include Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 228: Twentieth Century American Dramatists, Dictionary of Twentieth Century Culture, Volume 1: American Culture After World War II, and Volume 5: Black American Culture; Drama Criticism, Volume 2; Black Literature Criticism, 3 vols.; Black Writers; Contemporary Dramatists; Contemporary Black Biography; Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volumes 5 and 10; and Major Twentieth-Century Writers. 4 vols.
  • Studies of Wilson's drama:
  • Bogumil, Mary L. Understanding August Wilson, 1999.
    Elkins, Marilyn, ed. August Wilson: A Casebook, 1994.
    Nadel, Alan, ed. May All Your Fences have Gates: Essays on the Drama of August Wilson, 1994.
    Pereira, Kim. August Wilson and the African-American Odyssey, 1995.
    Shannon, Sandra Garrett. The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson, 1995.
  • Some reviews of Fences and Wilson's work at that time (1985-87):
    • Chicago Tribune, June 8, 1987; December 17, 1987; December 17, 1987; December 27, 1987, pp. 4-5.
    • Christian Science Monitor, March 27, 1987, pp. 1, 8.
    • Ebony, XLIII, No. 1 (November 1987), 68, 70, 72, 74. ("August Wilson: Hottest New Playwright," Alex Poinsett).
    • Essence, 18, No. 4, August 1987, 51, 111, 113 ("August Wilson," Brent Staples).
    • Los Angeles Times, November 7, 1986; April 17, 1987; June 7-9, 1987.
    • Massachusetts Review, spring 1988, pp. 87-97.
    • New York, April 6, 1987, pp. 92-94.
    • New Yorker, April 6, 1987.
    • New York Times Book Review, March 23, 1996, p. 22.
    • New York Times, May 5, 1985; May 6, 14, 19, 1986; June 20, 1986; March 27, 1987; April 5, 9, 17, 1987; May 7, 1987.
    • New York Times Magazine, June 10, 1987, pp. 36, 40, 49, 70.
    • Time, April 6, 27, 1987.
    • Tribune Books (Chicago), February 9, 1986, pp. 12-13.
    • Washington Post, May 20, 1986; April 15, 1987; June 9, 1987.


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