Staging Difference: Cultural Pluralism in American Theatre and Drama

By Marc Maufort | Go to book overview
about his work: "I read all my reviews, of course I do. I think writers who say they don't aren't being entirely honest. And I learn something from every review" (qtd. in Berson F1). August Wilson occupies an unusual position in American theatre. Although he feels very passionate about the historical treatment of blacks in American society, his characters break through the barriers of race and speak to both whites and blacks because they relate to archetypal themes and questions: What is true freedom? What is it to be a man or woman? How does a family relate? What is the nature of responsibility? What, ultimately, is the purpose of life and how does one "find one's own song?" How does one become (or find) a "shiny man"? In plays filled with poetic images, Wilson explores these questions. So far his record is amazing: in the terminology of baseball which occurs in Fences, Wilson has never struck out, he is batting a thousand, and there is nobody else in his league. One critic wrote, "He is the playwright that in forty years we will still be hearing about" ( DeVries23). He has a long career ahead and looks forward to it with zest. He has recently agreed to write a play to premiere at the Alliance Theatre Company in Atlanta during the Olympic Arts Festival in 1996. He looks forward with pleasure to completing his cycle of plays: "I think I'll do the 80s and 90s first and then go back to the first decade. It would really be something to have all ten finished" (qtd. in Vaughan 1E). Wilson's fans and many of the critics share that feeling. Writing in 1993, Misha Berson summed up Wilson's achievements so far:

Wilson will leave behind his own record. At age 47, the largely self- educated author has racked up a rare achievement: five plays successfully produced on Broadway and nationwide, two Pulitzer Prizes, and the forging of a distinctive voice, a sensibility, a style not to be mistaken for that of any other tale-teller. (F1)


Works Cited
Adoff Arnold. The Poetry of Black America. New York: Harper and Row, 1979.
Ansen David. "Of Prophets and Profits." Newsweek 27 April 1992. Rpr. New York Theatre Critics Reviews 1992: 141.
Arkatov Janice. "August Wilson: His Way." Los Angeles Times 7 June 1987: 35-36.
Barnes Clive. "Fiery 'Fences.'" New York Post 27 March. 1987. Rpr. New York Theatre Critics Reviews 1988: 316-17.
_____. "O'Neill in Blackface." New York Post 28 March 1988. Rpr. New York Theatre Critics Reviews 1988: 316-17.
Beaufort John. "Wilson's 'Two Trains Running' Scores." Christian Science Monitor 28 April 1992. Rpr. New York Theatre Critics Reviews 1992: 140.

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