Fredrick August Kittel, better known as August Wilson, was a renowned American playwright. He is one of the few writers to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice for his work in ten play series ‘The Pittsburg Cycle’. The series is divided into ten plays depicting struggles of the African-American community during various decades of the century. His other popular works include plays such as Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Two Trains Running and Gem of the Ocean. Along with the Pulitzer’s prize, he went on to receive prestigious awards such as Whiting Award, New York Drama Critics Circle Award, St. Louis Literary Award and American Theatre Critics' Association Award. In 2006, he was also inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. The childhood residence of Wilson was declared as a historic landmark by the state of Pennsylvania. Various theatres, community parks and public location have been named after Wilson to honor his credentials in the field of drama. Besides his literary work, his thoughts and sayings developed quite a cult following due to the issues he shed light onto such as racism, equality, and oppression. Read through this exclusive collection of quotes from August Wilson.
I do - very specifically, I remember Bessie Smith; I used to collect 78 records that I would buy from the St Vincent de Paul store at five cents apiece, and I did this indiscriminately. I would just take whatever was there. And I listened to Patti Page and Walter Huston, 'September Song.'
I dropped out of school, but I didn't drop out of life. I would leave the house each morning and go to the main branch of the Carnegie Library in Oakland where they had all the books in the world... I felt suddenly liberated from the constraints of a pre-arranged curriculum that labored through one book in eight months.
My first wife is a good woman, I still can't say nothing bad about her other than the fact that we had a difference on religion. She wanted someone who was a Muslim who shared those values. And I was like a heathen. I had to stay home on Sundays and watch the football game.
The most valuable blacks are those in prison, those who have the warrior spirit, who had a sense of being African. They got for their women and children what they needed when all other avenues were closed to them.
I think all in all, one thing a lot of plays seem to be saying is that we need to, as black Americans, to make a connection with our past in order to determine the kind of future we're going to have. In other words, we simply need to know who we are in relation to our historical presence in America.
I think it was the ability of the theater to communicate ideas and extol virtues that drew me to it. And also, I was, and remain, fascinated by the idea of an audience as a community of people who gather willingly to bear witness.
I'm a De Niro fan. I went eleven years without seeing a movie; the last one before that, February 1980, was De Niro and Scorsese in 'Raging Bull,' and when I went back, it was 'Cape Fear,' with De Niro and Scorsese. I picked up right where I left off at.
I had always been fascinated with Napoleon because he was a self-made emperor; Victor Hugo said, 'Napoleon's will to power,' and it was the title of my paper. And I submitted it to my teacher, and he didn't think I had written it. And he wanted me to explain it to him.
The blues are important primarily because they contain the cultural expression and the cultural response to blacks in America and to the situation that they find themselves in. And contained in the blues is a philosophical system at work. And as part of the oral tradition, this is a way of passing along information.
A novelist writes a novel, and people read it. But reading is a solitary act. While it may elicit a varied and personal response, the communal nature of the audience is like having five hundred people read your novel and respond to it at the same time. I find that thrilling.
Like most people, I have this sort of love-hate relationship with Pittsburgh. This is my home, and at times I miss it and find it tremendously exciting, and other times I want to catch the first thing out that has wheels.
I once wrote a short story called 'The Best Blues Singer in the World,' and it went like this: 'The streets that Balboa walked were his own private ocean, and Balboa was drowning.' End of story. That says it all. Nothing else to say. I've been rewriting that same story over and over again. All my plays are rewriting that same story.
I don't look at our society today too much. My focus is still in the past, and part of the reason is because what I do - the wellspring of art, or what I do - l get from the blues. So I listen to the music of a particular period that I'm working on, and I think inside the music is clues to what is happening with the people.
I don't write for a particular audience. I work as an artist, and I think the audience of one, which is the self, and I have to satisfy myself as an artist. So I always say that I write for the same people that Picasso painted for. I think he painted for himself.
In 1980 I sent a play, 'Jitney,' to the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis, won a Jerome Fellowship, and found myself sitting in a room with sixteen playwrights. I remember looking around and thinking that since I was sitting there, I must be a playwright, too.
I've seen some terrible plays, but I generally enjoy myself. One play I walked out of, I have a tremendous respect for the author. That was Robert Wilson, something called 'Network,' which consisted of Wilson sitting on a bunk, the dialogue of the movie 'Network' looped in while a chair on a rope went up and down.
I work as an artist, and I think the audience of one, which is the self, and I have to satisfy myself as an artist. So I always say that I write for the same people that Picasso painted for. I think he painted for himself.
From Borges, those wonderful gaucho stories from which I learned that you can be specific as to a time and place and culture and still have the work resonate with the universal themes of love, honor, duty, betrayal, etc. From Amiri Baraka, I learned that all art is political, although I don't write political plays.
In 1977, I wrote a series of poems about a character, Black Bart, a former cattle rustler-turned-alchemist. A good friend, Claude Purdy, who is a stage director, suggested I turn the poems into a play.
Most of black America is in housing projects, without jobs, living on welfare. And this is not the case in 'The Cosby Show,' because all the values in that household are strictly what I would call white American values.
With my good friend Rob Penny, I founded the Black Horizons Theater in Pittsburgh with the idea of using the theater to politicize the community or, as we said in those days, to raise the consciousness of the people.
I know some things when I start. I know, let's say, that the play is going to be a 1970s or a 1930s play, and it's going to be about a piano, but that's it. I slowly discover who the characters are as I go along.
I think the blues is the best literature that we as blacks have created since we've been here. I call it our 'sacred book.' What I've attempted to do is to mine that field, to mine those cultural ideas and attitudes and give them to my characters.
Blacks in America want to forget about slavery - the stigma, the shame. If you can't be who you are, who can you be? How can you know what to do? We have our history. We have our book, and that is the blues.
In the valley of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
It was early on in 1965 when I wrote some of my first poems. I sent a poem to 'Harper's' magazine because they paid a dollar a line. I had an eighteen-line poem, and just as I was putting it into the envelope, I stopped and decided to make it a thirty-six-line poem. It seemed like the poem came back the next day: no letter, nothing.
Scripts were rather scarce in 1968. We did a lot of Amiri Baraka's plays, the agitprop stuff he was writing. It was at a time when black student organizations were active on the campuses, so we were invited to the colleges around Pittsburgh and Ohio, and even as far away as Jackson, Mississippi.