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Approaches to Teaching the Plays of August Wilson

The award-winning playwright August Wilson used drama as a medium to write a history of twentieth-century America through the perspectives of its black citizenry. In the plays of his Pittsburgh Cycle, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Fences and The Piano Lesson, Wilson mixes African spirituality with the realism of the American theater and puts African American storytelling and performance practices in dialogue with canonical writers like Aristotle and Shakespeare. As they portray black Americans living through migration, industrialization, and war, Wilson's plays explore the relation between a unified black consciousness and America's collective identity.

In part 1 of this volume, "Materials," the editors survey sources on Wilson's biography, teachable texts of Wilson's plays, useful secondary readings, and compelling audiovisual and Web resources. The essays in part 2, "Approaches," look at a diverse set of issues in Wilson's work, including the importance of blues and jazz, intertextual connections to other playwrights, race in performance, Yoruban spirituality, and the role of women in the plays.

About the Authors

Sandra G. Shannon is professor of African American literature at Howard University. She is a leading scholar on the works of August Wilson and has published The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson and August Wilson's Fences: A Reference Guide. She is the editor of the College Language Association Journal and is a consultant for the forthcoming PBS American Masters documentary on August Wilson.

Sandra L. Richards is professor in residence and director of the Liberal Arts program at Northwestern University in Qatar. She is also professor of African American studies, theater, and performance studies at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. She specializes in African American, African, and African diaspora theater and drama and has published Ancient Songs Set Ablaze: The Theatre of Femi Osofisan and numerous articles on a range of black dramatists.

Reviews

"I am delighted with the range and quality of essays in this volume from established heavy hitters and exciting younger scholars. They are full of valuable perspectives and insights on a broad selection of Wilson's plays that will register with both teachers and students." —Steven Tracy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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