Jan 30 2015
The following post was written by Marketing Intern Amelia Peacock.
Our production of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, now onstage in the Bagley Wright Theatre through February 8, marks the first Seattle production of Wilson’s work in ten years. 2015 also marks the 10-year anniversary of August Wilson’s death. Though Wilson’s physical presence may be absent from Seattle Rep and his favorite haunts in the surrounding neighborhood, his legacy lives stronger than ever before. To help inaugurate these formidable milestones, the Rep is hosting two special community conversations in the final week of The Piano Lesson run.
The first conversation, Story Swap: August Wilson in Seattle, takes place tomorrow, Saturday January 31, following the matinee performance of The Piano Lesson. Audience members and the general public are invited to listen to personal stories and memories about August Wilson’s time in Seattle told by four people who knew him well: Sharon Williams, playwright and solo performer and Executive Director for the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas; Chic Streetman, actor and blues artist; Al Frank, playwright and longtime friend of Wilson’s; and Dena Levitin, Wilson’s former personal assistant.
As we prepare for this nostalgic event, I took a look in the Seattle Rep archives for more walks down memory lane, or should I say August Wilson Way. Sharon Ott, Seattle Rep Artistic Director from 1997-2005, admits, “Several of my fondest theatre memories of all time have to do with August and Seattle.” Ott remembers a particular occasion discussing two characters Wilson was working on at the Mecca Café, Wilson’s “usual haunt” in Lower Queen Anne. Ott didn’t know it at the time, but these two characters would eventually become the leads in Wilson’s King Hedley II, which premiered at Seattle Rep as part of the 1999-2000 season. As Ott remembers, “I left the Mecca and had to just walk around the block a couple of times. I felt like I was back in Elizabethan times, and I had just had the privilege of listening to Shakespeare ramble on about a character who might later become Hamlet or something!”
“Seattle’s Shakespeare” is a fitting title for Wilson who considered Seattle Rep his adopted artistic home. Seattle Rep’s unique relationship with America’s most beloved African American playwright gives us the privilege and duty to ensure that Wilson’s work continues to be produced on the national stage and we are excited for this opportunity to remember and honor his legacy in the city he loved so much.
Do you have a memory or story about August Wilson or his work? Did you meet the playwright in person or see one of his productions at Seattle Rep? We invite you to share your anecdotes in the comments section on our blog. We also hope you will join us for Story Swap: August Wilson in Seattle Saturday, January 31 in the Rotunda following the matinee performance of The Piano Lesson. For more information about this event and upcoming community conversations, visit the ‘Dates to Note’ section on The Piano Lesson web page here.