August Wilson, Playwright
August Wilson (1945-2005) authored Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II and Radio Golf. These works explore the heritage and experience of African Americans, decade by decade, over the course of the 20th century. Goodman Theatre was the first in the country to have produced every play in Mr. Wilson’s cycle. In 2003, Mr. Wilson made his professional stage debut in his one-man show How I Learned What I Learned. Mr. Wilson’s work garnered many awards, including Pulitzer Prizes for Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990); a Tony Award for Fences; Great Britain’s Olivier Award for Jitney; as well as seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars and Jitney. Additionally, the cast recording of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom received a 1985 Grammy Award and Mr. Wilson received a 1995 Emmy Award nomination for his screenplay adaptation of The Piano Lesson. Mr. Wilson’s early works include the one-act plays The Janitor, Recycle, The Coldest Day of the Year, Malcolm X, The Homecoming and the musical satire Black Bart and the Sacred Hills. Mr. Wilson received many fellowships and awards, including Rockefeller and Guggenheim Fellowships in Playwriting, the Whiting Writers’ Award, the 2003 Heinz Award, a 1999 National Humanities Medal by the President of the United States and numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities, as well as the only high school diploma ever issued by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He was an alumnus of New Dramatists, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a 1995 inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. October 16, 2005, Broadway renamed the theater located at 245 West 52nd Street the August Wilson Theatre. Mr. Wilson was born and raised in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and lived in Seattle, Washington, at the time of his death. He is survived by his two daughters, Sakina Ansari and Azula Carmen Wilson, and his wife, costume designer Constanza Romero.