Patti Hartigan at Harvard Book Store
August Wilson: A Life
August 15, 2023
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes theater critic PATTI HARTIGAN for a discussion of her new biography August Wilson: A Life.
About August Wilson: A Life
August Wilson wrote a series of ten plays celebrating African American life in the 20th century, one play for each decade. No other American playwright has completed such an ambitious oeuvre. Two of the plays became successful films, Fences, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis; and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman. Fences and The Piano Lesson won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; Fences won the Tony Award for Best Play, and years after Wilson’s death in 2005, Jitney earned a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.
Through his brilliant use of vernacular speech, Wilson developed unforgettable characters who epitomized the trials and triumphs of the African American experience. He said that he didn’t research his plays but wrote from “the blood’s memory,” a sense of racial history that he believed African Americans shared. Author and theater critic Patti Hartigan traced his ancestry back to slavery, and his plays echo with uncanny similarities to the history of his ancestors. She interviewed Wilson many times before his death and traces his life from his childhood in Pittsburgh (where nine of the plays take place) to Broadway. She also interviewed scores of friends, theater colleagues and family members, and conducted extensive research to tell the story of a writer who left an indelible imprint on American theater and opened the door for future playwrights of color.
Praise for August Wilson: A Life
"August Wilson: A Life is an exquisitely researched biography fully equal to its legendary subject. With an insider's knowledge of the theater world, critic and arts reporter Patti Hartigan details on these rich, revealing pages not only the epic life of a complex, often misunderstood genius, but also the fascinating artistic, political and racial milieu in which he moved, showing us that as long as there is a truly American theater, there will be the plays and unparalleled presence of August Wilson." —Charles Johnson, MacArthur Fellow and National Book Award-winning author of Middle Passage
"August Wilson was one of the greatest playwrights in the history of the American stage. Despite his major critical acclaim, a sophisticated biography is long overdue. Patti Hartigan has filled this void with a deeply researched, impressively insightful biography that reveals in riveting detail why Wilson will be recalled as one of the greatest dramatists of the twentieth century. A must read for students of theatre and African American literature." —Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
"Patti Hartigan has beautifully captured August Wilson’s ‘wild heart’ in this important work. It dives into the world of this seminal dramatist by showing us his process - and colossal talent - for illuminating the Black experience in America. Wilson admirers will rejoice." —Wil Haygood, author of Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World
Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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