Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

August Wilson Society's Pittsburgh Conference Keeps the Playwright's Words Front and Center

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

August Wilson Society's Pittsburgh Conference Keeps the Playwright's Words Front and Center

Article excerpt

The August Wilson Society gathers in Pittsburgh Thursday with the theme "Go Back and Pick Up the Ball." Fittingly, it is a line chosen from Wilson's "Two Trains Running," when the character Holloway says, "If you drop the ball, you got to go back and pick it up."

The group's mission to explore ways to keep the late Pittsburgh playwright's work on a roll brings its members to his hometown for a communal exploration of his words and to be revitalized by them.

"For the August Wilson Society, this is ground zero," said Sandra G. Shannon, the group's president. "We've been trying to get there ever since we came into being in 2006, out of Howard University."

Ms. Shannon, a Howard professor of African-American literature who has been writing about Wilson's body of work for 25 years, has herself been here many times, following the progress of the August Wilson Center, where a colloquium of panels, roundtables, workshops and performances begin Thursday and run through Sunday.

It is serendipity that the event coincides not only with what would have been the playwright's 73rd birthday, but also with celebrations emanating from the August Wilson House. Participating attendees will be shuttled to the various events at 1727 Bedford Ave., including Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre's "King Hedley II" and the August Wilson House's annual Block Party.

Ms. Shannon learned about the previously scheduled events in conversation with Laurence Glasco, co-author with Christopher Rawson of "August Wilson: Pittsburgh Places in His Life and Plays," and actor/activist Sala Udin.

"We wound up scheduling the conference around events that were already in place, which is wonderful," Ms. Shannon said. "The building is beautiful, but I also want people to get a sense of the city with the play, the block party and the tours."

Having the society's events within the walls of a building named for August Wilson makes sense.

"I remember when they broke ground and thinking how fascinating the idea is, to have a building named for him. He is most deserving of that," Ms. Shannon said. "I have witnessed it going through its various phases, and it is seemingly in very good hands with Janis Burley Wilson. …

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