“I first encountered August Wilson’s work 16 years ago when I was a college student,” says event organizer and Anoka-Ramsey English faculty member, Scott Stankey. “His second play, ‘Fences,’ has been one of my favorite works of literature ever since, and I always look for opportunities to introduce August Wilson and his work to my own students.”
August Wilson (1945-2005), a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, is considered one of the most influential writers in American theater. He is best-known for his unprecedented cycle of 10 plays, often called the Pittsburgh Cycle because all but one play is set in the Pittsburgh neighborhood where August Wilson grew up. The series of plays chronicle the tragedies and aspirations of African Americans during each decade of the 20th century.
Wilson's series earned him numerous awards, including the Tony Award (1985), the New York Drama Critics Circle Award (1985) and the Pulitzer Prize for drama (1990). The Virginia Theater on Broadway in NYC was renamed the August Wilson Theater in his honor in 2005, and the African American Cultural Center of Greater Pittsburgh was renamed the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in 2006.
Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul will be producing Wilson's play, “The Piano Lesson,” Feb. 21 to Mar. 16. The Pulitzer Prize-winning play tells the story of a family haunted by the living legacy of American slavery. The piano that sits in the salon of the Charles home is very valuable. For one family member, it holds the spirit of her grandparents, sold in exchange for it during slavery. For her brother it holds the key to his freedom. The struggle between the siblings over the piano threatens to tear the family apart.
“The English and Reading Departments [co-sponsors of the Visiting Writer program along with Faculty Development] recognize the importance of a ‘common-book’ experience,” says Stankey. It’s important that our students have the opportunity to read a book and then meet the person who wrote that book or, in this case, a respected scholar who has in-depth knowledge of both the playwright and the work itself.”
For more information about Anoka-Ramsey Community College or the Visiting Writer program, visit www.AnokaRamsey.edu or contact Stankey.