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Theatre & Thought: The World of August Wilson and The Black Creative Voice


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.

You can still purchase and enjoy this seminar even though the first date has passed. After purchase, you will be able to view a recording of the previous sessions.

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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 ReviewThe 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: FencesGem of the Ocean, Seven GuitarsMa Rainey’s Black BottomThe Piano Lessonand 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.  

Graham SchoolCourt’s remote, digital experiences are produced in partnership with the University of Chicago Graham School’s Arts@Graham series.

Select 1 course or enjoy the whole series! 5-play subscribers will have access to all seminars in Theatre & Thought. 3 and 4-Play subscribers may select the entire Theatre & Thought series as just one of their play selections. 3-play subscription packages start at only $96—a huge savings over purchasing seminars separately. Individual enrollment for the Theatre & Thought series is $85 per course. 

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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.

Posted on August 20, 2020 in Productions

14 responses on “Theatre & Thought: The World of August Wilson and The Black Creative Voice”

  1. Anita Crittenden says:

    I would love a seat on Sept 8, what time?

    Anita Crittenden
    acrittenden@mccormick.edu

    1. Brent Ervin-Eickhoff says:

      Hi Anita! All of our seminars in The World of August Wilson will be happening at 7pm online. Additionally, if you’re unable to make a specific date for The World of August Wilson, you’ll be able to watch a recorded version after the air date. You can purchase all 4 seminars in The World of August Wilson for $85. You can buy tickets online or by calling our Box Office at (773) 753-4472.

  2. Laurel Stradford says:

    I’d love to know when and where all events happen and how much $$$

    1. Brent Ervin-Eickhoff says:

      Hi Laurel! All of our seminars in The World of August Wilson will be happening virtually at 7pm online. Additionally, if you’re unable to make a specific date for The World of August Wilson, you’ll be able to watch a recorded version after the air date. You can purchase all 4 seminars in The World of August Wilson for $85. You can buy tickets online or by calling our Box Office at (773) 753-4472. Subscribers can gain access to all of our Theatre & Thought topics (as well as our other season events!) for significantly lower prices — up to 75% off regular ticket prices.

  3. Andrea hamad says:

    I’d love to see every session!

    1. Brent Ervin-Eickhoff says:

      Hi Andrea! You can purchase all 4 seminars in The World of August Wilson for $85. You can buy tickets online or by calling our Box Office at (773) 753-4472. Subscribers can gain access to all of our Theatre & Thought topics (as well as our other season events!) for significantly lower prices — up to 75% off regular ticket prices.

  4. Will Kiley says:

    Is there any way this can be purchased for use in schools? I am a high school theatre teacher in Texas by way of many years in Chicago. This would be an incredible resource for our students.

    1. Brent Ervin-Eickhoff says:

      Hi Will! We’re so excited that you’re interested in partnering with us to bring this content to your high schoolers. Our Director of Audience Services, Matthew Sitz, will reach out to you via email to further discuss this!

  5. Willie B Goodson says:

    Hi I would love to see all of the sessions

    1. Brent Ervin-Eickhoff says:

      Hi Willie! You can purchase tickets to all four sessions of The World of August Wilson online here, or reach out to our Box Office at (773) 753-4472 to make a purchase.

  6. BJH says:

    We subscribed to the 2020-21 season with friends, and the subscription is under their name. It seems that we should have access to these discussions, so we will call the office tomorrow and hope that we won’t miss the first one.

    1. Brent Ervin-Eickhoff says:

      Hi! If you subscribe with others, please ask them to share your email addresses with us ahead of time since they will be viewing on different devices and will need to login. We will ensure that you get a login email. They can let us know who they share their subscription with by emailing info@CourtTheatre.org. All ticket holders have access to our content for up to sixty days following its air date, so you’ll definitely be able to watch it if you missed it last night.

  7. Deborah Wolen says:

    This sounds so interesting, but I guess you are assuming all your subscribers are working form home? I am not working from home, and would not be able to watch the seminar until 8 pm. Is it possible to watch it at 8 pm?

    1. Brent Ervin-Eickhoff says:

      Hi Deborah! Everyone who purchases tickets has access to the content in Theatre & Thought for up to sixty days following the events. You don’t need to attend live in order to enjoy the content!

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