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The Hill District: August Wilson


August Wilson,
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama
1987 and 1990.(12)
BORN: 1945.
  • ...August would always be at the library, reading everything. Then, he'd come home and tell our mother what he learned that day. He was kind of like a walking newspaper. (13)

  • I grew up without a father. When I was 20 I went down onto Centre Avenue to learn from the community how to be a man. My education comes from the years I spent there. Mostly I'd listen to the older guys, because I was impressed. Here was a guy who lived 60 years--and I didn't think I was going to make it to the next year. (14)

  • My plays stem from impressions I formed on The Hill in the '50s and '60s...Those were times of great struggle and change for blacks. (15)

  • Drawn to the Black Power movement in the 1960s, he helped found a volunteer troupe in his native Pittsburgh that mounted the incendiary works of LeRoi Jones [Amiri Baraka]. "I tried to write myself, but I wasn't any good at dialogue," he says--a surprising judgment for a playwright whose characters speak with color and dialectical authenticity. (16)

  • Wilson gives words to trumpeters and trash men, cabbies and conjurers, boarders and landladies, all joined by a heritage of slavery. Their patois is his poetry, their dreams are his dramas. (17)

  • [In "Joe Turner's Come and Gone"], Wilson is a generous artist; he provides 11 compelling characters, an irresistible story and a power of language that lends a vivid music to a myriad of emotions. (18)

  • August always had a strong sense of history...He feels we can all learn from the past so we can improve the future. I think Pittsburgh's history has been very, very important to him. This city is a puzzle, a disjointed place with all the different ethnic groups going their separate ways. But everything that is America exists here, from the artistic beauty to the ugliness. It's all had an effect on August. (19)


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