Monday, January 19, 2015

August Wilson's last, as timely as ever

This Monday, January 19th, we discussed our final August Wilson play, Radio Golf. Written in 2005, shortly before Wilson's death, it draws together themes and characters from the previous 9 works in the Century Cycle: allegiance to community values versus individual success; choosing the future over the past; and the crushing weight of racist history that continues to burden African Americans well into the 21st century.

 Indeed, although it appeared 10 years ago, the conflicts in Radio Golf remain disturbingly current: gentrification, corruption, police violence. When mayoral candidate Harmond Wilks refuses to censor his speech demanding accountability for police killings of unarmed black men, we know he will lose, and we hear echos of contemporary protests like BlackLivesMatter and We Charge Genocide.

Although there are far fewer dramatic moments in Radio Golf than in some others in the cycle, it is permeated by a profound sadness. Aunt Ester is dead, her house will soon be demolished, and the rich culture of the Hill District which we have come to love over the past 9 plays is fading away. Black characters like Harmond, Roosevelt and Mame have moved into the middle class, but at a price: they have lost touch with their communal roots.

No need to lose touch with the world of August Wilson just yet! This March and April, the Goodman Theatre is hosting a Chicago celebration of Wilson's work, including  free staged readings of all 10 plays in the Century Cycle. The Piano Lesson will be performed at the Evanston Public Library on April 4th at 3:00 pm. Other Evanston events include a panel discussion April 7th at Northwestern on Wilson's work in St Paul, led by Professor Harvey Young; and actor/playwright Ruben Santiago Hudson performing Wilson’s autobiographical play, How I Learned What I Learned, March 30th also at Northwestern.

Thanks to all who have shared this marvelous year-long reading experience, especially Tim Rhoze, the original organizer; and our wonderful actors and discussion leaders: Twyla Abercrombie, James Alfred, Ron Conner, Aaron Todd Douglas, Jacqueline Williams, and Harvey Young. What a year it has been!

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