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Darrel Manson

August Wilson dies

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I met Mr. Wilson twice, just walking with him on the streets of Seattle. A warm, approachable fellow.

Another board member here, Croaker, was writing at a cafe one morning, and Wilson got curious and asked what he was writing. Croaker said he was working on a play. Wilson got curious and asked if he could sit down and talk about it with him. They got talking. Wilson started talking about the play he was working on. When Croaker realized who he was talking to, he couldn't believe it. And he came away very inspired. I haven't seen him write so confidently and excitedly than I did in the days following that incident.

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mrmando   

I saw Mr. Wilson sitting in front of a coffee shop the day after my son was born, but I couldn't think of anything in particular to say to him, so I just kept walking. That was June 20 ... he must have just been diagnosed around that time.

I have somehow never managed to see one of his plays, but I have two free tickets to the Seattle Rep this season, and they just scheduled "Radio Golf" for a production there. In an obit by local critic Joe Adcock, former Rep artistic director Sharon Ott compared Wilson's 10-play cycle to Shakespeare's Henry cycle. I don't know what higher praise there could be.

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I met Mr. Wilson twice, just walking with him on the streets of Seattle. A warm, approachable fellow.

Another board member here, Croaker, was writing at a cafe one morning, and Wilson got curious and asked what he was writing. Croaker said he was working on a play. Wilson got curious and asked if he could sit down and talk about it with him. They got talking. Wilson started talking about the play he was working on. When Croaker realized who he was talking to, he couldn't believe it. And he came away very inspired. I haven't seen him write so confidently and excitedly than I did in the days following that incident.

Never met the guy. never knowingly saw one of his plays. This is a great tribute.

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Mark Steyn posts his article from the March 1997 New Criterion on the controversy over August Wilson's call for segregated theatres.

I'm pretty sure we had a thread once on colour-blind casting, but I'm not sure where it is.

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mrmando   
Mark Steyn posts his article from the March 1997 New Criterion on the controversy over August Wilson's call for segregated theatres.

Wilson's position doesn't make a lot of sense to me, especially coming from a guy living in a town with a relatively small number of black residents that nonetheless has an established "black theatre" and an established "Asian theatre."

I'm pretty sure we had a thread once on colour-blind casting, but I'm not sure where it is.

It's here.

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mrmando   

A bit premature perhaps to nominate a heir apparent to Wilson on the basis of one play, but Charlayne Woodard's new play, Flight, is an impressive piece of work. It's the first multi-character play from a writer known for her autobiographical solo pieces, and it proves that her gift for storytelling extends beyond her own life. It also revels, as did Wilson's writing, in the rhythms of both African-American and native African speech, and the actors switch between the idioms effortlessly and fluently. Perhaps you've seen African folktales enacted before (Anansi is always a good bet for multicultural children's theatre), but you haven't seen them wrapped around an African-American narrative in a way that shows how oral tradition became the instrument of cultural development among a people forbidden to read and write. The play's set in 1858, and the characters are slaves, but there's nothing maudlin, condescending or preachy about the portrayals.

Woodard is currently a guest artist at Cal Arts, helping playwriting students develop solo pieces. It figures they'd bring her in AFTER my wife studied there. The celebrity guest artists during her time were an egomaniacal director who threw a chair at a cast member, and a septuagenarian playwright on the downhill side of dottiness who issued summary judgments instead of constructive criticism.

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NBooth   

Link to our thread on Denzel Washington's film adaptation of Fences.

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jfutral   

Living in Atlanta and working with companies like Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre and also Jomandi in the old days, I've lit a number of his plays and worked a number of the August Wilson Monologue competitions. His works have always enthralled me. They are tough plays to direct well, much less act convincingly. I never met him, but I have worked with a couple of his protege's and others who knew him quite well.

I don't know his thoughts on segregated theatre, but since I work with some of those "segregated" theatres my take is that they are important in the same way that "black lives matter" is more relevant than simply "all lives matter". There is a perspective and experience that, while universal in the underlying theme, is also uniquely black and wants to be addressed directly.

I don't think it is possible to point to one heir apparent considering Wilson's far reaching influence. But Flight is an amazing work.

Joe

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