Conversations with August Wilson
In little more than twenty years, playwright August Wilson (1945-2005) completed a ten-play cycle depicting African American life in the twentieth century, with each play taking place in a different decade. Two of the plays—Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990)—were awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and seven of them received the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for best American play. Wilson was indisputably the most significant American playwright to emerge since Edward Albee.
Conversations with August Wilson collects a selection of the many interviews Wilson gave from 1984 to 2004. In the interviews, the playwright covers at length and in detail his plays and his background. He comments as well on such subjects as the differences between African Americans and whites, his call for more black theater companies, and his belief that African Americans made a mistake in assimilating themselves into the white mainstream. He also talks about his major influences, what he calls his "four B's"—the blues, writers James Baldwin and Amiri Baraka, and painter Romare Bearden. Wilson also discusses his writing process and his multiple collaborations with director Lloyd Richards.
Throughout, Wilson is candid, expansive, and provocative, displaying in these exchanges his willingness to confront controversial topics just as he did in his plays.
Jackson R. Bryer is professor emeritus of English at the University of Maryland. Mary C. Hartig teaches English at Montgomery College and is the coeditor, with Jackson R. Bryer, of Facts on File Companion to American Drama.