1 minute read

August Wilson Biography

(1945–2005), Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Patrick White (Patrick Victor Martindale White) Biography to David Wojahn Biography

African-American playwright, born and educated at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A founder of Black Horizons Theatre Company in St Paul in 1968, he had a meteoric rise to prominence with the Broadway première of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1985), the first of a projected cycle of plays. Set in a recording studio in the 1920s, it deals with an imperious blues singer and the conflicts between the band players, one member wanting to take control of his own jazz music, while the others are resigned to playing to order. Several plays preceded this success, but with Fences (1987; Pulitzer Prize) his reputation was securely established. A play about territory and identity, it is set in the 1950s, and presents Troy Maxson, a black baseball player whose career ended just before black men were able to play in white baseball leagues. His other plays include Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1986), The Piano Lesson (1988), and Two Trains Running (1990). Wilson's plays focus on the alienation, frustration, and rage of black men and women in America, and present, in striking and articulate dramatic dialogue, the dispossessed black voices of the American past and present.

Additional topics