Photo: The 29th Annual UND Writers Conference
August Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, was born in 1945 in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, PA, the setting of many of his plays, including Seven Guitars. He first became involved in theatre in the late 1960’s, as a co-founder of Black Horizons, a Pittsburgh community theatre. His first play to be produced – at St. Paul’s Penumbra Theatre in 1981 – was Black Bart and the Sacred Hills, a satirical western he adapted from an earlier series of poems. After several unsuccessful submissions to the National Playwrights Conference of the O’Neill Theatre Center in Connecticut, Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was accepted for a workshop in 1982. The workshop marked the beginning of Wilson’s association with director Lloyd Richards, head of the Playwrights Conference. With Ma Rainey and his subsequent plays, Fences, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, and Seven Guitars, Wilson explored the heritage and experience of African-Americans over the course of the twentieth century. He has won Pulitzer Prizes for Fences (1987), and for The Piano Lesson (1990), as well as the New York Drama Critics Circle Awards for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, and Two Trains Running. He has received several fellowships, including the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Fellowships in Playwrighting, and is a winner of the Whiting Writers Award.