In this conversational, intimate look at August Wilson and the American Century Cycle, Dr. Kenneth Warren and Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson will examine how one of America’s most essential classic playwrights has been influenced by and impacted generations of Black artists.
August Wilson and The Great Migration
September 8, 2020 | Featuring Dr. Kenneth Warren and Professor Sandra Shannon
In this session, Dr. Kenneth Warren and Professor Sandra Shannon will discuss urbanization, migration, and property ownership in Pittsburgh’s Hill District as well as various theatrical trends that surface in August Wilson’s work. Participants will also learn about how Wilson’s work was received and the way Wilson’s play tackle issues of historical representation and cultural history.
Mentioned in this session:
Details about the August Wilson Society’s September 24th event in its second annual August Wilson’s Ground Lecture Series: August and Africa: https://awslectureseries2020.eventbrite.com
Details about the August Wilson Society: http://augustwilsonsociety.org
After purchase, you will be able to view a recording of this first session which occurred on September 8.
August Wilson and The Civil Rights Movement
September 15, 2020 | Featuring Dr. Kenneth Warren and Joel Rhone
In this session, Dr. Kenneth Warren and UChicago Doctoral student Joel Rhone will discuss the protest movements of the 1960s and 1970s in relation to August Wilson’s work. Also discussed will be the representational power of the family/familial struggle in Wilson’s plays and his nostalgia for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1980s and 1990s.
August Wilson, Genealogy, and Tradition
September 22, 2020 | Featuring Dr. Kenneth Warren and Professor Honey Crawford
In this session, Dr. Kenneth Warren and Professor Honey Crawford will expound on Wilson’s engagement with heteronormative leadership hierarchies of the Civil Rights Movement and address the representation of slavery, genealogy, and matriarchy in the plays of August Wilson. Additional discussion will concern the performance of African American vernacular speech and other cultural traditions in Wilson’s theatre and the social changes that sparked a renewed interest in African American folk culture in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Ground on Which I Stand
September 29, 2020 | Featuring Dr. Kenneth Warren and Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson
In this session, Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson and Dr. Kenneth Warren will explore Wilson’s simultaneous commitments to Western and African traditions and Wilson’s push for a “black theatre” in the speech “The Ground on Which I Stand.” Participants will also learn more about the influences on Wilson from the Black Arts/Black Power movement and contemporary artists who would identify Wilson as an influence.
About the Scholars and Artists
Dr. Kenneth Warren‘s scholarship and teaching focuses on American and African American literature from the late nineteenth century through the middle of the twentieth century. Professor Warren is particularly interested in the way that debates about literary form and genre articulate with discussions of political and social change. His single-authored books, which include What Was African American Literature? (Harvard 2010), So Black and Blue: Ralph Ellison and the Occasion of Criticism (Chicago, 2003), and Black and White Strangers: Race and American Literary Realism (Chicago, 1993), explore how American literature by black and white writers helped consolidate, and subsequently responded to, Jim Crow America. Professor Warren is also a coeditor of two books, Renewing Black Intellectual History: The Material and Ideological Foundations of African America Thought (Paradigm 2010) and Jim Crow, Literature, and the Legacy of Sutton E. Griggs (Georgia 2013). His articles have also appeared in Boston Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Jacobin. At the University of Chicago, the various courses he teaches reflect his interest in genre, the politics of race, and the relation of culture to politics.
Dr. Sandra G. Shannon is Professor of African American Literature in the Department of English at Howard University. She is a leading scholar on the works of playwright August Wilson with titles such as The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson and August Wilson’s Fences: A Reference Guide to her credit. She coedited the essay collection August Wilson and Black Aesthetic and is completing her work as coeditor of the forthcoming MLA Approaches to Teaching series volume Approaches to Teaching the Plays of August Wilson. Dr. Shannon has most recently published “An Intimate Look at Lynn Nottage,” which appeared along with an in-depth interview of the playwright in the collection, Contemporary African American Women Playwrights. She is also the author of “Women Playwrights Who Cross Cultural Borders,” which appears in the 2013 edition of The Cambridge Companion to African American Theatre. Dr. Shannon is currently part of an NEH award-winning team that will produce the PBS American Masters documentary on August Wilson set to air in 2014. She was recently named a Fulbright Specialist and has since won a grant from the U. S. State Department to travel to Botswana to do archival research on the written correspondences of the country’s most influential writer, the late Bessie Head. Dr. Shannon has recently accepted the editorship of the College Language Association Journal.
Honey Crawford’s research interests include global feminisms, critical race theory, public spectacle, and protest. She specializes in Afro Brazilian cultural performance as both a scholar and practitioner, exploring intersections between ritual performance and self-making through a repertoire that includes carnival, media activism, radical theatre, and the performance of everyday life. She earned her PhD in theatre studies from Cornell University in 2017 where she was also a New York Public Humanities Fellow.
Honey is currently developing her dissertation into her book manuscript, Negra Demais! Overwhelming Performances of Afro Brazilian Femininity. This project takes an interdisciplinary approach, positioning women-driven spectacles of black consciousness in the 20th- 21st century against prevalent discourse on the black diaspora and performance studies. Paying close attention to theatrical traditions that press against the bounds of propriety and indulge in an aesthetic of abundance, this book identifies a preoccupation with the transgressive potential held in performances of black feminine power.
Ron OJ Parson hails from Buffalo, New York and is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s professional theatre program. He is a Resident Artist at Court Theatre, former co-founder and artistic director of the Onyx Theatre Ensemble, and co-founder of the Beyond the Stage Theatre Project. Ron is a company member of TimeLine Theatre, and associate artist at Writers Theatre and Teatro Vista. Court Theatre: Fences, Gem of the Ocean, Seven Guitars, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, and Jitney by August Wilson; The Mountaintop by Katori Hall; Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett; Sizwe Banzi is Dead by Athol Fugard, John Kani and Winston Ntshona; Blues for an Alabama Sky and Flyin’ West by Pearl Cleage; Home by Samm-Art Williams; Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott; The First Breeze of Summer by Leslie Lee; and the musical Five Guys Named Moe. In Chicagoland, Ron has also worked with Black Ensemble Theatre, eta Creative Arts Foundation, Chicago Dramatists, Congo Square, Oak Park Theatre Festival, Goodman, Victory Gardens, Northlight, Chicago Dramatists, Urban Theater Company, Steppenwolf, and City Lit Theatre. Regional theatres include American Players Theatre, Virginia Stage Company, Portland Stage (Maine), Studio Arena Theatre, Roundabout, Studio Theatre (DC), Baltimore Center Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Wilshire Theater, Coronet Theatre, The Mechanic Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, St. Louis Black Rep, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, Geva, Signature (New York), The Alliance Theatre, South Coast Rep, Kansas City Repertory, and Pasadena Playhouse. In Canada, Ron directed the world premiere of Palmer Park at the Stratford Festival. Ron is a member of SAG-AFTRA, SDC, and Actors Equity. Visit www.RonOJParson.com.
Joel Rhone is a PhD student at the University of Chicago. Joel earned his BA from Howard University in 2016, and after winning the Marshall Scholarship he received an MA from the University of Manchester in 2017. His research interests include historical fiction, diaspora studies, and Black writers in exile. More broadly, he studies the performance of solidarity in African American letters. Joel was awarded honorable mention for the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship in 2019, and serves as an admissions assistant with UChicago GRAD.
Court’s Theatre & Thought series connects audiences to expert insights from University of Chicago faculty about the historical context, thematic relevance, and artistic possibilities surrounding classic works. Each Theatre & Thought topic will feature a different play and include virtual meetings with University scholars to discuss the ideas underpinning these classic texts.
Court’s remote, digital experiences are produced in partnership with the University of Chicago Graham School’s Arts@Graham series.
Photo of Jacqueline Williams and Tyla Abercrumbie in August Wilson’s GEM OF THE OCEAN by Michael Brosilow.
Photo of August Wilson with Ron OJ Parson by Ray Baker.