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August Wilson ([portrait of august wilson])

August Wilson's 20th Century: Gem of the Ocean

This is the haunting tale of a spiritually tormented young man who pays a visit to Aunt Ester, a former slave, on the eve of her 287th birthday. On his way to the mythic City of Bones, he makes startling discoveries about guilt, duty, and redemption.

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About

"One of the most important voices in the American theater"
--The New York Times

Gem of the Ocean (1900s)
Directed by Kenny Leon

Reality and mysticism collide in this haunting tale of a spiritually tormented young man who pays a visit to Aunt Ester, a former slave, on the eve of her 287th birthday. On his way to the mythic City of Bones at the bottom of the sea, he makes startling discoveries about guilt, duty, and redemption.
--Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes, with one intermission--

CASTING
Eli: James A. Williams
Citizen Barlow: John Earl Jelks
Aunt Ester: Michele Shay
Black Mary: Tracie Thoms
Rutherford Selig: Raynor Scheine
Solly Two Kings: Anthony Chisholm
Caesar: Ruben Santiago-Hudson

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
An American icon, August Wilson depicted the human condition like no other playwright of his time. His legacy lives on through his crowning achievement: a cycle of 10 plays chronicling the African American experience, each set in a different decade of the 20th century. Crafted over nearly 25 years, these works garnered Wilson myriad accolades, including a Tony Award and two Pulitzer Prizes. Bringing them together for the first time ever, the Kennedy Center presents staged readings of all 10 of Wilson's masterpieces, frequently dubbed "The Pittsburgh Cycle," as all but one are grounded in the city of his youth.

More than 30 stars of stage and screen join Artistic Director Kenny Leon and six other acclaimed directors for this historic month-long celebration (March 4–April 6, 2008). Complemented with costumes, lighting, and scenery, the plays will be performed in chronological order--collectively revealing Wilson's sweeping vision of the challenge and glory of being black in America.

News and Reviews

Watch and Listen

Acting for August

Acting for August
Contemporary Playwrights: August Wilson Part 1 of 10

Discovering the Library: Born in an economically-depressed neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA, August Wilson’s young life was changed by a visit to the Carnegie Public Library, where he discovered books relevant to his life and experiences.
Contemporary Playwrights: August Wilson Part 10 of 10

The Collaboration Process: A play starts with the playwright’s text, but it is the actors, director, set designer, costumer, and lighting designer and more who bring a production to fruition.
Contemporary Playwrights: August Wilson Part 2 of 10

Writing as a Child: August Wilson became fascinated with language and began writing in the second grade.
Contemporary Playwrights: August Wilson Part 4 of 10

The Writing Process: The blank page is often seen as a formidable stumbling block for young writers, but August Wilson learned to embrace it: the blank page or canvas allowed him to discover the story as he began to write.
Contemporary Playwrights: August Wilson Part 5 of 10

The Stronger Political Act: Describing the work of August Wilson, actor James Earl Jones said, “…when he writes he leaves some blood on the page.
Contemporary Playwrights: August Wilson Part 7 of 10

The Artist’s Relationship with the Audience: August Wilson approached his art as an aesthetic statement that impacted audience members not only as individuals, but also as a community.
Contemporary Playwrights: August Wilson Part 8 of 10

Recurring Themes: Through his plays, August Wilson made important connections to history, heritage and his ancestors, stressing the responsibility of each generation , and the idea that you must know where you come from to know where you’re going.
Contemporary Playwrights: August Wilson Part 9 of 10

The Rehearsal Process: August Wilson saw the characters in his plays as undergoing a process of evolution from his written pages to the live theatre stage.

Related Events

August Wilson's 20th Century: Joe Turner's Come and Gone Released from many grueling years on a plantation chain gang, Herald Loomis journeys north in search of a new life. With his young daughter, he struggles to find his place--and his long-lost wife--while staying in a Pittsburgh boardinghouse.

August Wilson's 20th Century: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom Chicago blues legend Ma Rainey sets out to record her latest album in the only one of Wilson's 10 plays set beyond Pittsburgh. As generational and racial tensions escalate among her band and producers, the studio soon explodes in violence and tragedy.

August Wilson's 20th Century: The Piano Lesson Bearing the carved faces of her enslaved ancestors, Berniece's antique piano is her family's most treasured heirloom. Though it sits unused, the option to sell it for land sparks a fierce debate with her brother Boy Willie, a Mississippi sharecropper.

August Wilson's 20th Century: Seven Guitars "Everybody got a time coming," says one of the central characters in this exploration of life and death. Through flashbacks, seven friends and neighbors face the sobering reality of mortality and the pain of losing those they love.

August Wilson's 20th Century: Fences Once a famous baseball player, Troy Maxson is a proud garbage collector, father, and husband. When his youngest son is offered a football scholarship, Troy must reconcile his anger at past racial inequities with wanting the best for his family's future.

August Wilson's 20th Century: Two Trains Running Regulars at Memphis Lee's lunch counter gossip, sermonize and wax poetic on the stories of the day. Learning the city is to demolish their favorite gathering spot in the wake of urban renewal, these colorful souls contemplate where next to seek salvation.

August Wilson's 20th Century: Jitney At a ramshackle taxi depot, the men who drive gypsy cabs, or "jitneys," strive to find honor and accomplishment in a harsh world. When the station owner's estranged son returns from prison, their reunion unleashes two decades of brutal, raw emotion.

August Wilson's 20th Century: King Hedley II An ex-con tries to rebuild his life by selling stolen refrigerators and robbing the neighborhood jeweler so he can buy a video store. But grand dreams for his wife and unborn child are threatened by a system that's not about to play by his rules.

August Wilson's 20th Century: Radio Golf Harmond Wilks's revitalization project will make him Pittsburgh's first black mayor. And his radio host partner advocates golf as deliverance in the era of Tiger Woods. But a hold-out on their real estate deal forces them to question their methods.

All events and artists subject to change without prior notice.

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