UAPB to celebrate August Wilson with symposium, production

During the National Library Week Celebration, which is today through April 14, the Department of English, Theatre & Mass Communications, in partnership with the John Brown Watson Memorial Library System of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, will present the August Wilson Symposium.

This major event, sponsored in part, by Title III, will feature local and regional scholars that focuses on the life and works of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, August Wilson (April 27, 1945-October 2, 2005), one of the most prolific African American playwrights of the 20th century. Wilson’s unconventional education in his local public library gave him the vision to comment on the arc African American lives, linking him with the 2012 National Library Week theme, “You belong @ your Library.”

August Wilson’s body of work spans all genres, but he is most known for his highly acclaimed Pittsburgh cycle, the most powerful dramatic representation of the African American experience put on stage. Wilson charts, in 10 plays, every decade post-slavery to the challenges of contemporary urban life.

As the John McLinn Ross Players of UAPB are mounting their first August Wilson production, it is important to understand how vital Wilson’s voice as a dramatist is to the African American community and modern American Theatre. By engaging with August Wilson’s work on the page, the stage performances become a personal event.

The August Wilson Symposium is a precursory look at his work before the John McLinn Ross Players’ spring production of “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”, which will be held April 19-22, and directed by Cheryl Collins. Wilson sets the stage for the second play in his Pittsburgh cycle in 1911 to encapsulate the life of turn of the century African Americans building community and coming into self-realization.

The week’s events include:

Monday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. — Kick-Off featuring scenes from “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” — John Brown Watson Memorial Library

Tuesday at 10 a.m. — Panel, “Theatre as Literature: Cultural Revelation in the works of August Wilson,” — John Brown Watson Memorial Library; will feature the distinguished faculty of UAPB, looking at Wilson’s works with a literary and pop culture perspective.

Wednesday at 2 p.m. — Director’s Forum, “Directing August Wilson” — Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Center. Moderated by Collins; special guests include Bruce Cohen, director of theatre at Arkansas State University-Beebe; Bob Hupp, artistic director of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre; and Ekundayo Bandele, founder and executive/artistic director of Hattiloo Theatre, the black repertory company in Memphis.

Thursday at 7 p.m. — Keynote: “Africanism in Wilson’s Pittsburgh” by Lawrence Blackwell, professor of theatre at University of Memphis — Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Center

“Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. April 19 (UAPB Student Night) and April 20, and at 3 p.m. April 21-22. Tickets are $10 for general admission, $5 for students with ID and $6 for groups of 10 or more.

For more information, contact Patrice Fisher at 870-575-8411 or Alexis Skinner at 870-575-8428.