Media Relations Manager
Howard University to Host Special Event Honoring
Late Award-Winning Playwright August Wilson
Washington DC, November 23, 2005 – In celebration of the life and legacy of award-winning playwright August Wilson, a special event, featuring Wilson’s daughter, Sakina Ansari, will be held Thursday, Dec. 1 from 4-6 p.m. at Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium, 2455 Sixth Street, NW. A special committee, appointed by President H. Patrick Swygert and led by English Professor Sandra G. Shannon, Ph.D., organized this occasion in memory of Wilson, who died Oct. 2, 2005. The event is free of charge and open to the public.
Confirmed guests include actors and actresses from his plays, as well as representatives from the theater community. They include: Rosalyn Coleman, who performed in “Seven Guitars” and “The Piano Lesson;” Fred Struthers, acclaimed local actor who appeared in “Seven Guitars,” “Two Trains Running,” and “Fences;” Derrick Sanders, artistic director of Chicago’s Congo Square Theatre; Kenny Leon, actor, director, producer, co-founder and artistic director of the Atlanta and Washington, DC-based True Colors Theatre Company; Claude Purdy, August Wilson's longtime Pittsburgh friend and fellow poet; Gavin Lawrence, Howard alumnus, accomplished actor and star of the Arena Stage production of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom;" Molly Smith, artistic director, Arena Stage; and Irene Lewis, artistic director, Center Stage.
Recognized as the most popular African-American playwright by the early 1990s, Wilson won The New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play of the Year in 1984-85 for his play, “Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.” During his prolific career, Wilson also completed a 10-play cycle exploring the heritage and experience of African-Americans, decade-by-decade, over the course of the 20th century.
Beloved by the Howard University community, Wilson visited the campus in 1995 for a colloquium on theater and the publication of Shannon’s book, “The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson,” the first extensive study published on his work. He received the Doctor of Humanities Degree honoris causa during Commencement in 2004. In early 2005, Shannon organized a two-day symposium, “Situating August Wilson in the Canon and in the Curriculum,” which emphasized methods of teaching the works of Wilson.
“We, here at Howard University and across the global community, have only just begun to realize the impact that August Wilson has had on African-American culture and the arts” said Shannon. “An artist of prophetic vision, he has given us a gift that, over time, will only increase in its value. Packaged as 10 powerful plays that cast new light on the African-American experience during 20th century America, August Wilson’s gift reminds us of the tumultuous history of a people while emphasizing the dignity and nobility of their struggle.”
“This celebration will allow those of us who teach, study and aspire to careers in theatre the opportunity to honor the genius and creativity of August Wilson and his eloquent, dignified depictions of African-American characters,” said Joe Selmon, chairman, Department of Theatre Arts. “The work of August Wilson has helped to destroy some of the old stereotypical formulas in the performing arts disciplines … The celebration is especially important to theatre arts students and faculty because it also affords us a forum for expressing our gratitude to August Wilson for opening the doors and stages of many theatre houses across the nation.”
The ninth play in his 10-play cycle, “Gem of the Ocean,” recently closed in Princeton, N.J., and will be next performed at San Francisco’s ACT Theatre. The tenth and final play in the cycle, "Radio Golf," is currently running at the Mark Taper Theatre in Los Angeles and is scheduled to be performed at Center Stage in Baltimore in March 2006.
Wilson’s extensive list of awards include the New York Drama Critics Circle Award (1985, 1987, 1988), the Whiting Foundation Award (1986), the American Theatre Critics Award (1986, 1989, 1991), the Outer Circle Award (1987), the Drama Desk Award (1987), the John Gassner Award (1987), the Tony Award (1987), the Helen Hayer Award (1988), and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1987, 1990).
Howard University is one of 48 U.S. private, doctoral/research-extensive universities and comprises 12 schools and colleges. Founded in 1867, the university offers students more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. Since 1998, the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, a Truman Scholar, seven Fulbright Scholars and nine Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D.s than any other university in the world. For more information on Howard University, call 202-238-2330, or visit the University’s Web site at www.Howard.edu.