Live @ Five: Celebrating August Wilson

Join us for a special live event delving into intergenerational themes in playwright August Wilson’s body of work.

Established and emerging artists will explore short scenes from some of Wilson's most notable plays followed by a discussion with Goodman Resident Director Chuck Smith, Walter Director of Education Willa J. Taylor and Dr. Khalid Long, assistant professor of theater at Columbia College.

Featured performers include Tony nominee Stephen McKinley Henderson, Lisa Gaye Dixon (chair of the Acting Program at the University of Illinois) and Chicago-based artists Ariya Hawkins and alfonzo kahlil.

Due to our agreement with the Wilson Estate, this event was only available to watch LIVE. Please visit for additional virtual programming.


Meet the Artists

  • August Wilson

    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.

    August Wilson
  • Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith is a member of Goodman Theatre’s Board of Trustees and is Goodman Theatre’s Resident Director. He is also a resident director at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota, Florida. Goodman credits include the Chicago premieres of Objects in the Mirror; Pullman Porter Blues; By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; Race; The Good Negro; Proof and The Story; the world premieres of By the Music of the Spheres and The Gift Horse; James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner, among others. He served as dramaturg for the Goodman’s world-premiere production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. Regionally, Mr. Smith directed Death and the King’s Horseman (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Birdie Blue (Seattle Repertory Theatre), The Story (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Blues for an Alabama Sky (Alabama Shakespeare Festival) and The Last Season (Robey Theatre Company). He won a Chicago Emmy Award as associate producer/theatrical director for the NBC teleplay Crime of Innocence and was theatrical director for the Emmy-winning Fast Break to Glory and the Emmy-nominated The Martin Luther King Suite. He was a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he served as artistic director for four seasons and directed the Jeff-nominated Suspenders and the Jeff-winning musical Po’. He is a 2003 inductee into the Chicago State University Gwendolyn Brooks Center’s Literary Hall of Fame and a 2001 Chicago Tribune Chicagoan of the Year. He is the proud recipient of the 1982 Paul Robeson Award and the 1997 Award of Merit presented by the Black Theater Alliance of Chicago.

    Chuck Smith
  • Willa J. Taylor

    Willa J. Taylor is the Goodman’s director of education and community engagement. She began her career in arts education at Arena Stage where, under founding director Zelda Fichandler, she established the Allen Lee Hughes Fellows Program—one of the first theater-run apprenticeships designed to increase participation by people of color in professional theater. She then went to Lincoln Center Theater where she created The Urban Ensemble, a multidisciplinary project that served at-risk youth. This collaboration between Lincoln Center and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and The Public Theater was cited by President Clinton’s Council on the Arts and Humanities in its 1996 report, Coming Up Taller. At Lincoln Center, she consulted for New Victory Theatre, where she designed the arts education program for their inaugural season. Ms. Taylor also served as cultural director for Gay Games IV, where she oversaw the production of more than 200 cultural events, including the Broadway production of Sir Ian McKellen’s A Knight Out. In addition to a longtime career in the arts, Ms. Taylor brings to the Goodman a wealth of experience in other areas. For 12 years she served as a Russian and Arabic linguist in the U.S. Navy. While overseas, she oversaw productions for the United Service Organization in Greece and managed Armed Forces Radio and Television in Turkey where she created the Profiles in Black history series. Following her graduation from Kendall College’s culinary program in 2001, Taylor opened Taylor-Made Cuisine, a gourmet catering company as well as Home Café, a neighborhood bistro. In 2005, she helped open and served as the catering chef for Chicago’s EatZi’s Easygoing Gourmet, a chain of gourmet bakeries, take-out markets and restaurants based out of Dallas, Texas.

    Willa J. Taylor
  • Khalid Yaya Long, Ph.D.

    Khalid Yaya Long, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of theatre at Columbia College Chicago where he teaches Traditions of World Theatre, Global Drama, American Drama, African American Theatre, Asian American Theatre History, Feminist Theatre, and Dramaturgy. Dr. Long has published scholarly essays in Continuum: The Journal of African Diaspora Drama, Theatre and Performance as well as the Routledge Companion to African American Theatre and Performance. Dr. Long’s forthcoming scholarship includes essays in Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies and Theatre Design & Technology. Dr. Long is a regular contributor to Black Masks, a long-established black theatre and entertainment magazine. Dr. Long’s current book project, Miracle Plays, Drylongso, and Transnational Feminism: The Black Feminist Theatre of Glenda Dickersonis a is a critical examination of the life and works of Black feminist artisan, pedagogue, and creative activist Glenda Dickerson (1945-2012). In addition to his scholarly pursuits, Dr. Long is a freelance dramaturg and director. Dr. Long currently serves as the Vice President and Conference Planner (2018-2020) for the August Wilson Society, an interdisciplinary learning community of instructors, students, and theatre lovers who remain dedicated to commemorating August Wilson’s legacy by promoting the studying, teaching, researching, performing, and ultimately the safeguarding of the rich narrative of the African American past that Wilson has bequeathed to us in the form of 10 plays that chronicle the stories of African Americans from 1904 to 1997.

    Khalid Yaya Long
  • Stephen McKinley Henderson

    Stephen McKinley Henderson has appeared in five Oscar Nominated films. His OBIE and LUCILLE LORTEL awards are for outstanding lead actor in Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adley Guirgis, which received The Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2015. Considered among the celebrated interpreters of playwright August Wilson’s work, Stephen received a Tony nomination and the Richard Seff Award for his performance as Bono in the 2010 revival of FENCES. Noteworthy television work includes Alex Garland’s FX on HULU series, DEVS; Wu Tang: An American Saga on HULU and Aaron Sorkin’s HBO series, THE NEWSROOM. Henderson is Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance for the State University of New York at Buffalo. He is a member of the LAByrinth Theater Company, a Fox Foundation Fellow, a Master Teacher for The Lunt-Fontanne Ten Chimneys Fellowship Program and a recipient of the Woodie King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award from The St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre. In 2016 he was the Denzel Washington Endowed Chair at Fordham University. Stephen has taught master classes for Juilliard Drama Division where he delivered the commencement address and received Juilliard’s Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, May 19, 2017.

    Stephen McKinley Henderson
  • Lisa Gaye Dixon

    Lisa Gaye Dixon has worked professionally across the country and around the globe. Her Chicago credits include For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf (Steppenwolf Theatre Company). She appeared in the west coast premiere of her one-woman show My Case Is Altered: Tales of a 21st Century Roaring Girl. Regional credits include Black Pearl Sings (Kitchen Theatre Company/GEVA Theatre Center); Getting Out (Performance Network); Fences (Ann Arbor Civic Theatre); What Fresh Hell is This?… (Attic Theatre); Having Our Say (Lost Nation Theater); Pretty Fire and Yellowman (Kitchen Theatre); The Tempest (Milwaukee Shakespeare) and Richard III, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Knight of the Burning Pestle and King Lear (Illinois Shakespeare Festival). Ms. Dixon’s international credits include Slaughter City (Royal Shakespeare Company) and Damon and Pythias (Globe Theatre). Her film credits include The Trouble with Men and Women, Leading Ladies and Using. She is a producer and Chair of the Acting Program at the University of Illinois. 

    Lisa Gaye Dixon
  • Ariya Hawkins

    Ariya Hawkins is a Chicago-based actor and singer. She began her training as a Musical Theatre student at ChiArts, and was simultaneously involved in three different programs in the Goodman Theatre's Education & Engagement Department. After graduating from ChiArts in 2016, she went on to pursue her BFA in Musical Theatre from Millikin University. In addition to her work within school, she has been a company member at the Canterbury Summer Theatre. Ariya graduated in the Spring of 2020. Her favorite credits include Sheila Franklin in Hair at Millikin University; Remixing the March, Heartscape, and The Water is Rising (Goodman Theatre); The Bikinis and Vanities: The Musical (Canterbury Summer Theatre); Oklahoma, Ragtime, Working, and Sweet Charity (ChiArts).

    Ariya Hawkins
  • alfonzo kahlil

    alfonzo kahlil is a performance artist that specializes in, and communicates through, the spoken word and the dramatic arts. Raised on the Westside of Chicago, alfonzo believes in the power of performance to document, dismantle, enchant, and build. alfonzo holds a BFA in theater from New York University and was last seen in Free Street Theater's 50/50 and Still/Here.

    alfonzo kahlil