The iconic red door at 1839 Wylie Street, ren-dered mythic by August Wilson's unique 20th Century Cycle of plays.

August Wilson Society Colloquium Scores Big in Pittsburgh

by Sandra G. Shannon

During the final week of April 2018, the August Wilson Society (AWS) descended upon Pittsburgh and, for three days, found a home in the lovely, vibrant, and spacious August Wilson Center for African American Culture (AWC). This veritable hub of African American cultural activities proved to be the perfect location for "Go Back and Pick up the Ball: An August Wilson Society Colloquium," whose title mirrored a football analogy uttered by Wilson's venerable and seemingly ageless Aunt Ester and passed along by restaurant owner Memphis Lee during one of several teaching moments in Two Trains Running. "She say, 'If you drop the ball, you got to go back and pick it up. Ain't no need in keeping running, cause if you get to the end zone it ain't gonna be a touchdown'"(112). Implicit themes of retrieval and reclamation within this simple com-mand run throughout Wilson's American Century Cycle and, sadly, came full circle in comments made by the terminally ill Wilson during a final interview granted to Suzan-Lori Parks. "We have gained a lot of sophistication and expertise and resources, and we should be helping that community, which is completely devastated by drugs and crime and the social practices of the past hundred years of the country," he told Parks. "I thought: How do I show that you can go back[?]...[W]e have resources....Put that expertise that we've gained to some use.... Some people don't feel that responsibility, but I do" (American Theatre, November 2005, 22)....(continued)

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Sandra G. Shannon is president and founder of the August Wilson Society and organizer of their successful Go Back and Pick up the Ball: An Au-gust Wilson Society Colloquium. A professor emeritus of African American Literature in the Department of English at Howard University, she is widely acknowledged as the leading scholar on August Wilson. The author of two book-length studies: The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson and August Wilson's Fences: A Reference Guide, and numerous essays, and chapters on August Wilson, most recently including "August Wilson" in Visions of Tragedy in Modern America Drama, she has served terms as editor of Theatre Topics journal and is currently the editor of the College Language Association Journal. A former president of the Black Theatre Network, she was also a founding board member of Continuum: The Journal of African Diaspora Drama, Theatre, and Performance. In April 2018, Dr. Shannon was inducted into the College of Fellows of the Amer-ican Theatre as a "distinguished achiever in professional and educational theatre."


Spring Summer 2018

This article is featured in Vol. 24, No. 2

Also in this issue:

  • Kathy Perkins: A Tale of Two Passions

  • In Memoriam: Gertrude Jean-nette, Ted Shine, and Reg E. Cathey

  • Editor's Notes: Seasonal Hopes

  • Arts Hotline

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    Renowned scholar and founder of the August Wilson Society (AWS), Dr. San-dra Shannon stands in front of the Au-gust Wilson Center and the poster an-nouncing the 2018 "Go Back and Pick up the Ball" AWS Colloquium in Pittsburgh.