Best August Wilson books

Fences

August Wilson

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• Now a Major Motion Picture directed by Denzel Washington, and starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis (winner of the Academy Award and Golden Globe for her role)
• Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play 

"In his work, Mr. Wilson depicted the struggles of black Americans with uncommon lyrical richness, theatrical density and emotional heft, in plays that give vivid voices to people on the frayed margins of life."—The New York Times

From legendary playwright August Wilson, the powerful, stunning dramatic work that won him critical acclaim, including the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize.

Troy Maxson is a strong man, a hard man. He has had to be to survive. Troy Maxson has gone through life in an America where to be proud and black is to face pressures that could crush a man, body and soul. But the 1950s are yielding to the new spirit of liberation in the 1960s, a spirit that is changing the world Troy Maxson has learned to deal with the only way he can, a spirit that is making him a stranger, angry and afraid, in a world he never knew and to a wife and son he understands less and less.

Denzel Washington’s film adaptation received nominations for awards from the Academy Awards, African-American Film Critics Association, American Film Institute, Critics' Choice Movie Awards, Golden Globe Awards, and NAACP Image Awards, among others.

Radio Golf

August Wilson

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“The concluding work in one of the most ambitious dramatic projects ever undertaken . . . a play that could well be Mr. Wilson’s most provocative.”—Ben Brantley, The New York Times

Radio Golf is a rich, carefully wrought human tapestry that is colorful, playful, thoughtful and compelling.”—Ed Kaufman, The Hollywood Reporter

Radio Golf is August Wilson’s final play. Set in 1990 Pittsburgh, it is the conclusion of his Century Cycle—Wilson’s ten-play chronicle of the African American experience throughout the twentieth century—and is the last play he completed before his death. With Radio Golf Wilson’s lifework comes full circle as Aunt Ester’s onetime home at 1839 Wylie Avenue (the setting of the cycle’s first play) is slated for demolition to make way for a slick new real estate venture aimed to boost both the depressed Hill District and Harmond Wilks’ chance of becoming the city’s first black mayor. A play in which history, memory, and legacy challenge notions of progress and country club ideals, Radio Golf has been produced throughout the country and will come to Broadway this season.

August Wilson’s plays include Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II, and Radio Golf. They have been produced at theaters across the country, on Broadway, and throughout the world.

August Wilson Century Cycle

August Wilson

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Series introduction by John Lahr with individual volumes introduced by Laurence Fishburne, Tony Kushner, Romulus Linney, Marion McClinton, Toni Morrison, Suzan-Lori Parks, Phylicia Rashad, Ishmael Reed, and Frank Rich.

“No one except perhaps Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams has aimed so high and achieved so much in the American theater.”—John Lahr, The New Yorker

“Heroic is not a word one uses often without embarrassment to describe a writer or playwright, but the diligence and ferocity of effort behind the creation of his body of work is really an epic story. . . . For all the magic in his plays, he was writing in the grand tradition of Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller, the politically engaged, direct, social realist drama. He was reclaiming ground for the theater that most people thought had been abandoned.”—Tony Kushner

August Wilson’s Century Cycle is “one of the most ambitious dramatic projects ever undertaken” (The New York Times). With it, Wilson dramatizes the African American experience and heritage in the twentieth century, with a play for each decade, almost all set in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, where he grew up. Wilson’s extraordinary lifework—completed just before his death in October 2005—is presented here for the first time in its entirety.

Art is beholden to the kiln in which the artist was fired. Before I am anything, a man or a playwright, I am an African American. . . . The cycle of plays that I have been writing since 1979 is my attempt to represent that culture on stage in all its richness and fullness and to demonstrate its ability to sustain us in all areas of human life and endeavor and through profound moments of our history in which the larger society has thought less of us than we have thought of ourselves.

The characters in the plays still place their faith in America’s willingness to live up to the meaning of her creed. It is this belief in America’s honor that allows them to pursue the American Dream even as it remains elusive. . . . They shout, they argue, they wrestle with love, honor, duty, betrayal; they have loud voices and big hearts; they demand justice, they love, they laugh, they cry, they murder, and they embrace life with zest and vigor. . . . In all the plays, the characters remain pointed towards the future, their pockets lined with fresh hope and an abiding faith in their own abilities and their own heroics.—August Wilson

The Piano Lesson

August Wilson

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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play


August Wilson has already given the American theater such spell-binding plays about the black experience in 20th-century America as Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Fences. In his second Pulitzer Prize-winner, The Piano Lesson, Wilson has fashioned his most haunting and dramatic work yet.

At the heart of the play stands the ornately carved upright piano which, as the Charles family's prized, hard-won possession, has been gathering dust in the parlor of Berniece Charles's Pittsburgh home. When Boy Willie, Berniece's exuberant brother, bursts into her life with his dream of buying the same Mississippi land that his family had worked as slaves, he plans to sell their antique piano for the hard cash he needs to stake his future. But Berniece refuses to sell, clinging to the piano as a reminder of the history that is their family legacy. This dilemma is the real "piano lesson," reminding us that blacks are often deprived both of the symbols of their past and of opportunity in the present.

Gem of the Ocean

August Wilson

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“No one except perhaps Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams has aimed so high and achieved so much in the American theater.”—John Lahr, The New Yorker

“A swelling battle hymn of transporting beauty. Theatergoers who have followed August Wilson’s career will find in Gem a touchstone for everything else he has written.”—Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“Wilson’s juiciest material. The play holds the stage and its characters hammer home, strongly, the notion of newfound freedom.”—Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

Gem of the Ocean is the play that begins it all. Set in 1904 Pittsburgh, it is chronologically the first work in August Wilson’s decade-by-decade cycle dramatizing the African American experience during the 20th century—an unprecedented series that includes the Pulitzer Prize–winning plays Fences and The Piano Lesson. Aunt Esther, the drama’s 287-year-old fiery matriarch, welcomes into her Hill District home Solly Two Kings, who was born into slavery and scouted for the Union Army, and Citizen Barlow, a young man from Alabama searching for a new life. Gem of the Ocean recently played across the country and on Broadway, with Phylicia Rashad as Aunt Esther.

Earlier in 2005, on the completion of the final work of his ten play cycle-surely the most ambitious American dramatic project undertaken in our history-August Wilson disclosed his bout with cancer, an illness of unusual ferocity that would eventually claim his life on October 2. Fittingly the Broadway theatre where his last play will be produced in 2006 has been renamed the August Wilson Theater in his honor. His legacy will animate the theatre and stir the human heart for decades to come.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom: A Play (Plume)

August Wilson

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Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Fences and The Piano Lesson
Winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play


The time is 1927. The place is a run-down recording studio in Chicago. Ma Rainey, the legendary blues singer, is due to arrive with her entourage to cut new sides of old favorites. Waiting for her are her black musician sidemen, the white owner of the record company, and her white manager. What goes down in the session to come is more than music. It is a riveting portrayal of black rage, of racism, of the self-hate that racism breeds, and of racial exploitation.

Joe Turner's Come and Gone

August Wilson

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Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Fences and The Piano Lesson
Winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play

 
“The glow accompanying August Wilson’s place in contemporary American theater is fixed.” Toni Morrison
 
When Harold Loomis arrives at a black Pittsburgh boardinghouse after seven years' impressed labor on Joe Turner's chain gang, he is a free man—in body. But the scars of his enslavement and a sense of inescapable alienation oppress his spirit still, and the seemingly hospitable rooming house seethes with tension and distrust in the presence of this tormented stranger. Loomis is looking for the wife he left behind, believing that she can help him reclaim his old identity. But through his encounters with the other residents he begins to realize that what he really seeks is his rightful place in a new world—and it will take more than the skill of the local "People Finder" to discover it.
 
This jazz-influenced drama is a moving narrative of African-American experience in the 20th century.

Three Plays

August Wilson

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This collection features Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, voted Best Play of 1984-85 by the New York Drama Critics' Circle, Fences, winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and Joe Turner's Come and Gone, voted Best Play of 1987-88 by the New York Drama Critics' Circle.

Seven Guitars

August Wilson

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Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Fences and The Piano Lesson
Winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play

It is the spring of 1948. In the still cool evenings of Pittsburgh's Hill district, familiar sounds fill the air. A rooster crows. Screen doors slam. The laughter of friends gathered for a backyard card game rises just above the wail of a mother who has lost her son. And there's the sound of the blues, played and sung by young men and women with little more than a guitar in their hands and a dream in their hearts.

August Wilson's Seven Guitars is the sixth chapter in his continuing theatrical saga that explores the hope, heartbreak, and heritage of the African-American experience in the twentieth century. The story follows a small group of friends who gather following the untimely death of Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton, a local blues guitarist on the edge of stardom. Together, they reminisce about his short life and discover the unspoken passions and undying spirit that live within each of them.

Two Trains Running

August Wilson

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Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Fences and The Piano Lesson
Winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle Best Play Award


“Vivid and uplifting… pure poetry… remarkable!”—Time
 
“A symphonic composition with a rich lode of humanity running through it.”—Los Angeles Times

“There are always and only two trains running.
There is life and there is death.
Each of us rides them both.
To live life with dignity,
to celebrate and accept responsibility
for your presence in the world
is all that can be asked of anyone.”
 
August Wilson established himself as one of our most distinguished playwrights with his insightful, probing, and evocative portraits of Black America and the African American experience in the twentieth century. With the mesmerizing Two Trains Running, he crafted what Time magazine called “his most mature work to date.”
 
It is Pittsburgh, 1969, and the regulars of Memphis Lee’s restaurant are struggling to cope with the turbulence of a world that is changing rapidly around them and fighting back when they can. The diner is scheduled to be torn down, a casualty of the city’s renovation project that is sweeping away the buildings of a community, but not its spirit. For just as sure as an inexorable future looms right around the corner, these people of “loud voices and big hearts” continue to search, to father, to persevere, to hope. With compassion, humor, and a superb sense of place and time, Wilson paints a vivid portrait of everyday lives in the shadow of great events, and of unsung men and women who are anything but ordinary.