Author The Old Vic
This June, August Wilson’s groundbreaking modern classic play Jitney comes to our stage – following an acclaimed run at Leeds Playhouse in 2021 (★★★★★ ‘A triumph’ The Telegraph). On what would have been Wilson’s 77th birthday, we look back at his life and work.
He grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania…
… the setting for many of his plays, including Jitney, which explores the fragile bond between eight men as they live, love and work in a racially segregated, post-Vietnam America. The play was written in 1979 and won an Olivier Award for Best New Play.
He had left school by 16…
… and continued to self-educate himself at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. In 1968, with Rob Penny, Wilson co-founded the Black Horizon Theater, a community-based theatre company in Pittsburgh. They produced several plays from a collection of literature and artwork by African-American artists. The work’s intention was to raise awareness about the African-American experience, which Wilson went on to do with his own plays.
He is recognised for his immense contribution to American literature…
… and the Virginia Theater on Broadway was re-named the August Wilson Theater after his death in 2005, aged just 60. During his career he won the Pulitzer Prize twice, for his plays Fences and The Piano Lesson, and two of his plays have been adapted into films: Fences and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, both starring Viola Davis.
An Old Vic, Headlong & Leeds Playhouse co-production
This production is generously supported by the American Associates of The Old Vic