Saturday, April 8, 2017

My Spring Road Trip - First Stop: August Wilson's Pittsburgh

Portion of Kyle Holbrook's August Wilson Mural in Pittsburgh
Some time back, as I lingered in the cafe at Signature awaiting the house to open for the critical acclaimed production of August Wilson's The Piano Wilson, I chitchatted with a woman from the Pittsburgh area. She had seen productions of all 10 plays in Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle. Moreover, she was familiar with Pittsburgh's Hill District and the locations mentioned throughout Wilson's plays. After chatting with the woman, I decided I would read the cycle and crossed my fingers and hoped that I would some day experience productions of the 10 plays.

Thanks to the Evening Division at Juilliard (yeah - see shout out here), last fall, I finally read the cycle and got to discuss Wilson and his plays in depth with a group of like minded enthusiasts (facilitated by dramaturg Shana Komitee). I was a pig in mud! 
EVDOL 016 — August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle
Shana Komitee
Few American playwrights, living or dead, have had as great an impact on American theater as August Wilson. He is best known for his collection of 10 plays — collectively known as the Pittsburgh Cycle — that consider African-American life in each decade of the 20th century. The cycle won countless awards, including Pulitzers and Tonys, and created an unparalleled document of an American community's life over a 100-year period. In this course, we read, discuss, and view footage of each installment of the cycle, beginning with Gem of the Ocean (set in 1904) and concluding with Radio Golf (set in 1997). Students gain a deeper appreciation of Wilson's life and work, his place within the American theater canon, and the contemporary actors and directors working to sustain his legacy.
Then, when this was all said and done, I ended the year by going to the cinema to see Denzel Washington's master class and Viola Davis' Oscar winning performances on the big screen. Oh my -- Let's look at one of the trailers again.   

Denzel Washington has committed to producing all of Wilson's plays for the screen. I can't wait to see them.

Recently, I went on a road trip. When I saw that there was an opportunity to pass by Pittsburgh, I knew I had to continue my August Wilson journey and stop in the Hill District. 

My first stop: August Wilson's Final Resting Place - Greenwood Cemetery in O'Hara - 321 Kittanning Pike, Pittsburgh, PA - Section 7 - Row 25 - Grave 10.

My second stop: August Wilson's birth home (now under restoration) at 1727 Bedford Avenue.

My third stop: Fictional site of Aunt Esther's house at 1839 Wylie Avenue.

My fourth stop: The rich and dense August Wilson mural by artist Kyle Holbrook at 2037 Centre Avenue.

My fifth stop: August Wilson Room at Carnegie Library, Hill District Branch - 2177 Centre Avenue.

My final stop: House used during filming of the movie Fences - 809 Anaheim Street. You can't miss that wooden fence surrounding the house! Just watch out for the dogs on the neighboring property when you are trying to peer over the fence in the back. I learned the hard way!

The house was the final August Wilson stop on my self guided tour on a rainy Spring afternoon in Pittsburgh but definitely not the final stop on my August Wilson journey. I still have to see productions for 5 of the plays in the cycle, and I am truly looking forward to seeing what Denzel Washington does with the rest of the cycle.  

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