August Wilson House officially opens in Pittsburgh’s Hill District

The August Wilson House officially opened over the weekend in a tearful and emotional ceremony, bringing over 500 residents, celebrities, officials, and local Black leaders to Pittsburgh’s Hill District. The Bedford Avenue childhood home of Hill District native August Wilson, one of the greatest playwrights in history, was unveiled as a new community arts center, with a goal of connecting Black artists across the city. “I want to thank the community because he is yours and you are his,” said award-winning actor Denzel Washington, who returned to Pittsburgh for the event after taking part in a community ground blessing of…

King Hedley II ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 9 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1999; Broadway 2001 Setting: 1985; backyard of row houses; Pittsburgh Hill District Prologue (starry night) Stool Pigeon, clicking ham bones, monologues to an offstage cat (which belongs to Aunt Ester). “The story’s been written. All that’s left now is the playing out.” I.i King (30s), ex-con with scarred face, plants seeds; his mother Ruby (60) asks him about getting a phone hooked up; he is out of work; she says Elmore is coming; says this dirt is no good, he needs better dirt; she says he’s stubborn like his father Hedley…

Jitney ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 8 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1982; Broadway 2017 Setting: 1977; Becker’s cab station, Pittsburgh Act I.i (morning?) Youngblood accuses “old man” Turbo of cheating in checkers; Turbo accuses Fielding of drinking his gas money; Youngblood turns down a grocery run, which Turbo takes; Youngblood gets defensive at Doub’s silent look; Shealy the numbers runner describes seeing the face of the one woman he loves in all the other women; Philmore (customer) asks for ride home after being out late; Turnbo (nebby) tells story about driving a teen customer who stole a TV from his (the teen’s)…

Two Trains Running ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 7 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1990 (Broadway 1992) Setting: 1969; Memphis’s small restaurant, Pittsburgh Act I.i Memphis (hard-working and honest) complains that Wolf (notorious numbers runner) is tying up his phone; Risa (waitress with self-scarred legs) doles out sugar at Wolf’s request; Memphis complains his “old lady” left him and wouldn’t even shake his hand; Holloway (whose anger at injustice draws him to the supernatural) describes big crowed for Prophet Saumel at West’s funeral home (across the street). Risa supports Samuel as truth-teller; others focus on his popularity and wealth. Memphis describes his youthful recklessness, but…

Fences ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 6 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1985 Setting: 1957; 1965; Troy Maxon’s lived-in backyard, Pittsburgh A prose prologue contrasts the experience of European immigrants who were embraced by cities, with the opposition faced by the descendants of African slaves. I.i. (Friday evening) Troy (large man) and Bono (his “follower”) “engage in a ritual of talk and drink.” Troy is hoping his union will back his push to be promoted from garbage collector to driver; Troy is dismissive of co-worker Brownie, who Bono mentions is interested in “that Alberta gal,” and Troy admits he’s bought her a drink,…

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Seven Guitars ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 5 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1995 Setting: 1948, backyard of a house, Pittsburgh I.i. (Sunday; right after Floyd’s funeral) Louise sings a “bawdy song” as Red Carter and Canewell squabble over pie; Canewell admire’s the preacher’s sermon, and Vera reports seeing six angels that came out of the sky; Canewell and Red Carter confirm they saw the group and spoke to a man from the group; Louise challenges their story, but Hedley confirms seeing them; Vera says they carried Floyd into the sky; Vera goes inside, and soon we hear Floyd “Schoolboy” Barton singing his hit…

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The Piano Lesson ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 4 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1987;  Broadway & Pulitzer Prize 1990 Setting: 1930s, Doaker’s house, Pittsburgh Scene description mentions an old upright piano with legs carved in African style. I.i. (5am) Offstage Boy Willie calls, waking Doaker (severe, settled railroad cook). BW introduces Lymon, from “back home.” He asks for Bernice. They have driven from Mississipi in Lymon’s truck, full of watermelons to sell. He tells her  “the Ghosts of the Yellow Dog got Sutter.” (Son of the man who enslaved their mother fell down a well; we learn Stovall (down South) is looking for Lymon;…

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom ( #AugustWilson #CenturyCycle, 3 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1984. Setting: a recording studio in Chicago, 1927. 10 characters An opening note describes the context of the city and the significance of blues music. Act I Money-man Sturdyvant orders manager Irvin to keep “her” in line. To Sturdyvant, this is all just business. When band leader Cutler, bassist Slow Drag, and pianist Toledo enter, Sturdyvant is annoyed that Ma isn’t with them. Neither is the trumpet player Levee. Irvin hands Cutler a list of songs that’s different from what Ma told the band to rehearse. With money he won from…

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (August Wilson’s Century Cycle, 2 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle >  Spoiler-free scene breakdown Premiered: 1988. Setting: The Hollys’ boarding house, Pittsburgh. 1911. 11 characters (a fairly large cast for a drama, including 2 children who would typically be double-cast; not an easy play to produce) Long stage directions before the first scene describe the children of freed slaves moving north. I.1 (morning) Ornery Seth describes to his long-suffering wife Bertha the “heebie-jeebie” pidgeon-blood ritual that “conjure man” Bynum performs outside. Seth discusses starting his own shop rather than working nights for Mr. Orlowski. Recent Southern transplant Jeremy has been arrested for drunkenness. Selig (from Gem…

Gem of the Ocean (August Wilson’s Century Cycle, 1 of 10)

August Wilson’s Century Cycle > Spoiler-free scene breakdown. Premiere: 2003 Setting: Aunt Ester’s parlor, 1839 Wylie, Pittsburgh. 1904. Prologue (late at night) Troubled Citizen Barlow arrives, seeking Aunt Ester. Eli (handyman and “gatekeeper”) tells him to come back Tuesday. Citizen tries to push past him; they tussle, upsetting a lamp. Ester picks up Citizen’s hat and hands it to him, gently telling him to come back Tuesday. Act I.1 (next morning) Eli tells Black Mary (Ester’s housekeeper and “protègè”) the man, wearing “clodhoppers” (work boots that mark him as a recent arrival from the south) is still out there waiting.…