An assessment of the contributions of the award-winning African American dramatist
August Wilson counts among America's greatest playwrights—having garnered commercial success on Broadway and critical acclaim including New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, Drama Desk Awards, Tony Awards, and two Pulitzer Prizes. This revised edition of Understanding August Wilson provides a comprehensive view of the thematic structure of Wilson's plays, the placement of his work within the context of American drama, and the distinctively African American experiences and traditions that he dramatizes.
Mary L. Bogumil argues that Wilson gave voice to disfranchised and marginalized African Americans who were promised a stake in the American dream but find their access blocked. The author maintains that Wilson wished not only to portray the predicaments of African American life but also to shed light on the atavistic connection African Americans have to their African ancestors. Bogumil explains that the playwright's work both perpetuates and subverts the tradition of American drama in order to expose the distinct differences between white American and African American experiences.
Included here are a revised introduction; revised chapters on Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, and Seven Guitars; and new chapters on King Hedley II, Jitney, Gem of the Ocean, and Radio Golf. In addition the volume contains material from interviews with seminal figures in Wilson's personal and professional life: dramaturg Todd Kriedler; Penumbra Theater's co-founder and director Lou Bellamy; and Wilson's friend of forty years, late poet Chawley P. Williams.
Mary L. Bogumil is an associate professor of English at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, holding a dual appointment in the Departments of English and Theatre. Her previous scholarship on African American literature has appeared in College English, Theatre Journal, the American Journal of Semiotics, and the Cambridge Companion to August Wilson.
Review of previous edition
"Bogumil's discussion of such topics as Wilson's use of symbolism, the blues, and African American history is clearly conveyed. A good beginning for study of Wilson"—Choice