August Wilson is not related to Alex Wilson or any other blues musicians. Nor is he my Black History Month artistic pick. He is one of those people, when you meet them, they command your immediate respect. Only, I never met him. I only know what he left behind.
I first saw a tattered copy, of a bound play in a used bookstore, The Frugal Muse. It was red, wrinkled and ancient. I immediately liked it, especially for a quarter. Expecting a book about the legendary female blues singer, I thumbed through, and realized it was a play, set on the South Side of Chicago during the 1920's. I had never heard of him, or it! How could that be? Who was this guy?
Wilson was an amazing voice in the world of writing. He grew up poor in Pittsburgh, and lived a mere sixty years, before passing within two months of a liver cancer diagnosis.
He choose to wield a pen, not a pick or a brush. His art and calling, was writing, particularly, scriptwriting. Blues, significantly influenced the writer's life, intentions and art. He knew enough about the music, history, and good storytelling, to write and catch the nuance's of recording musicians to get his play produced at Yale in 1984. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is a behind the scenes historical glance at blues studio artists, contrasted with one indomitable female blues singer. Wilson's play has become a must see of the Blues Community.
Today, I saw on a newsfeed, The American Stage Theatre Company has extended the run of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" one extra week through Feb 20, at the Raymond James Theatre. I think it's the perfect solution to the blizzard of 2011. There is a reason it was nominated for a Tony Award.
Wilson became a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright. He is also known for such thought provoking productions as; Fences, Joe Turner's Come and Gone; and Radio Golf.
"I see the blues as a book of literature, and it influences everything I do." ~August Wilson