SARASOTA, FL – Many people are familiar with August Wilson, the renowned playwright, but what about the man and his legacy? In a one-hour, one-session class presented by Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe on April 27, participants will explore August Wilson’s background, his ten-play cycle, known as “The American Century Cycle,” and his 4 B’s (the Blues, Jorge Luis Borges, Amiri Baraka and Romare Bearden). This class is being offered in celebration of Wilson’s birthday – the late playwright would have turned 76 on April 27.
Participants will watch interviews with Wilson and view a few scenes from “Fences,” “Jitney,” and other plays. This will be a jam-packed 45-minute class filled with drama, fun, and a lot of knowledge, with a 15-minute discussion period after the lecture.
Instructor is WBTT Associate Managing Director Travis Ray, who earned a BA in theatre performance from Alabama State University (HBCU), then continued his professional actor training at the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, Nebraska Repertory Theatre. He holds an MFA in theatre management/arts administration from the University of Alabama. Ray has worked with the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Coalition of Performing Arts, the King Tut Exhibit, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, the Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and Tyler Perry Studios.
“In our view, August Wilson could be considered to American theater what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was to the civil rights movement,” said Nate Jacobs, founder and artistic director of WBTT. “WBTT has made a commitment to produce every play of Wilson’s ‘American Century Cycle’ and expose audiences – who may not otherwise get such a clear-eyed view of the African American experience in the U.S. – to the works of this incredibly important American playwright.”
Wilson (April 27, 1945 – October 2, 2005) authored works including “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “The Piano Lesson,” “Fences,” “Jitney” – all of which WBTT has produced – and many other works that explore the heritage and experience of the descendants of Africans in North America, decade by decade, over the course of the twentieth century, forming the compilation entitled The American Century Cycle. His plays have been produced on Broadway, at regional theaters across the country, and all over the world. His works have garnered many awards, including: the Pulitzer Prize for “Fences” (1987) and for “The Piano Lesson” (1990); a Tony Award for “Fences”; Great Britain’s Olivier Award for “Jitney”; and seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards for various works. Additionally, the cast recording of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” received a 1985 Grammy Award, and Wilson received a 1995 Emmy Award nomination for his screenplay adaptation of “The Piano Lesson.”
The class takes place on Tuesday, April 27, 1 p.m. via Zoom. Cost is $10. To purchase, go to westcoastblacktheatre.org.
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. is the only professional Black theater company on Florida’s West Coast. Its mission is to produce professional theater that promotes and celebrates the African American experience, to attract diverse audiences, to support and develop African American artists, and to build the self-esteem of African American youth. For more information, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call 941-366-1505.