Sunday, October 09, 2005

August Wilson's Come and Gone

Pulitzer-Prize-winning African American Playwright August Wilson's funeral was yesterday in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Wilson died of liver cancer on October 2nd. His candid portrayals of Black America were not only important because they brought that experience and the awareness of it to the theatre but because they provided a high-calibre opportunity for African American actors, including the likes of Phylicia Rashad (remember Mrs Huxtable from the Cosby Show?), Charles S. Dutton and others. Wilson died in Washington state but the funeral was held in the city where many of his plays were set. The crowd at the funeral included many close friends and family, including Rashad and Dunton. Wynton Marsalis brought those in attendance to tears with his rendition of Danny Boy and then lightened the mood with a happier tune.

Interestingly, Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel -- the son of an immigrant German baker and, Daisy Wilson, an African American cleaning woman from North Carolina. He changed his last name to his mother's maiden name when his father passed away in 1965. If you're unfamiliar with Wilson's work, one of the best examples can be found in "The Piano Lesson". Other famous plays include "Fences", "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom", and "Joe Turner's Come and Gone".

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