Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Playwright August Wilson dead at the age of (only) 60

August Wilson is dead.

That is far too young.

Theatre people love theatre, but most of us can list on one hand the top theatre going experiences of our lifetimes. Shows that didn't just entertainment or thrill or amuse or move, but that shook us deeply...whether with joy or anguish (and sometimes both.

Mine include the original Broadway production of Sweeney Todd, the Steppenwolf production of The Grapes of Wrath on Broadway...and the original Broadway production of August Wilson's Fences starring James Earl Jones, Mary Alice and Courtney Vance.

I'll never forget the moment when Alice's long-suffering wife finally lets out her pent-up anger and frustration, physically flailing at Jones' imposing presence. Some weeks later I rode the elevator in the Equity building with Alice. When one lives in NY or LA, one typically tries to act all nonchalant with the stars one sees. But I had to say something to Ms. Alice. She was kind and self-effacing.

Of course Fences was an early work in Wilson's ongoing telling of the story of African American life. He went on to tell many more stories. And he likely had a few more in him that never got out. More's the pity.

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