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Week4LectureNotes - SLIDE 1 Week 4 August Wilson&...

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Unformatted text preview: SLIDE 1 Week 4: August Wilson & Culture Specific Theater Agenda: Advice on Discussions Lecture: Why write for a particular culture? August WilsonÕs mission Feature: The Piano Lesson (104 minutes) SLIDE 2 SPECIFICITY IN YOUR WRITING: The only way that we know a student actually comes to class and watches the piece is through his/her discussions. So, if a response is generalized, vague, and/or a re-hash of other group responders, then it's not absolutely clear that the student saw the piece. The way to show your expertise of the piece (and improve your analysis and written expression) is by being very specific in how you describe moments in the performance. Vague:ÒOne major event in this movie that stood out to me was when they had Maya explain what her idea was all about.Ó Specific: ÒI believe that it was significant though, to have Lin create such a monument. It showed that our country is a place of diversity and that all people from all backgrounds are equal. The first moment from the film that illustrates this is when an angry veteran tries to protest the building of the moment and verbally attacks Lin in a speech. This speech declared that it was wrong for her to create this and that it would be a "black hole" in society.Ó Re-hash of other posts: In one group--4 students mentioned the EvelynÕs suggestion that Adam get a haircut in the opening scene of ÒThe Shape of ThingsÓ. DonÕt give the same examples as everyone else in your group. RECOMMENDATIONS: ¥Make a point, then pick a specific moment in the play to illustrate it with. ¥Magnify the moment (details, details, details) ¥Take a few notes during the show you want to remember ¥Quoting a key line from the show is great evidence. ¥Do a word count on your posts. ¥Vary your points AND examples from other members of your group. SLIDE 3 August Wilson What is WilsonÕs place in American Theater? According to Charles Isherwood, theater critic, New York Timeshttp://www.nytimes.com/packages/khtml/2005/10/03/theater/20051003_WILSON_AUDIOSS.ht ml http://www.nytimes.com/packages/khtml/2005/10/03/theater/20051003_WILSON_AUDIOSS.html http://www.nytimes.com/packages/khtml/2005/10/03/theater/20051003_WILSON_AUDIOSS.htm l SLIDE 4 August Wilson: Biography 1945-2005 1945 - Born Frederick August Kittel on April 27 in Pittsburgh to Daisy Wilson and Frederick Kittel. 1959 - Only African American student in Central Catholic High School; threats and abuse drive him away. Connelley Vocational High School proves unchallenging. 1960 - Drops out of Gladstone High School at age 15 when a teacher accuses him of plagiarizing a 20-page paper on Napoleon. 1962-63 - Enlists in U.S. Army for three years, leaves after one. 1965 - Wilson said he discovered the blues when he heard Bessie Smith's "Nobody Can Bake a Sweet Jelly Roll Like MineÓ; Death of his biological father, Frederick Kittel; Changes name to August Wilson; Buys his first typewriter and writes poetry; Moves into rooming house on Bedford Avenue in the Hill District. 1968 - Co-founds Black Horizon Theater with Rob Penny. 1976 - Vernell Lillie directs his The Homecoming for Kuntu Repertory Theater; Sees his first professional play, Athol Fugard's Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, about a black man struggling with identity under apartheid, at Pittsburgh Public Theater. 1977 - Writes musical satire, Black Bart and the Sacred Hills. 1978 - Moves to St. Paul, Minn., with advice of friend Claude Purdy; lands job writing historical playlets for the Science Museum of Minnesota. 1980 - Fellowship at Minneapolis Playwrights Center. 1984 – Ma RaineyÕs Black Bottom premiers at Yale Repertory Theater SLIDE 5 August Wilson: Mission Considered it his duty to preserve the legacy and history of his culture Deeply concerned for the correct and accurate representation of the African-American experience. Only African Americans should have the last word in accurately and completely depicting the African-American experience. SLIDE 6 10-Play Cycle 1900s - Gem of the Ocean (2003) The Hill District Solly Two Kings, a former slave and Underground Railroad operator, and Citizen Barlow, a young Southern man looking for a new life, seek sanctuary at 1839 Wylie Avenue, a house belonging to Aunt Ester, the 287-year-old matriarch of August Wilson's world. 1910s - Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1988) The Hill District Seth and Bertha Holly's boarding house is a temporary haven for African Americans moving to the North. Some are trying to Þnd a new life, or, in the case of Harold Loomis, in search of family members lost under the oppression of gangs. 1920s - Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (1985) set in Chicago While the white agent and studio boss wait for blues star Ma Rainey to show up for her recording date, the four black musicians in her band rehearse, bicker, tell stories and dream. 1930s - The Piano Lesson (1990) - Pulitzer Prize The most precious possession of the Charles family is an upright piano. When they were slaves, a Charles child was traded for it and the child's father carved his grief on it in scenes of family history. Years later, his descendants reclaimed the piano. Now it is the focal point in a struggle between their descendants over how to use this painful legacy. 1940s - Seven Guitars (1995) Floyd Barton is a natural musician who dreams of the big time. But as the play begins, his wife and friends mourn his death and explore his story. This is the only August Wilson play told in flashback form. Plays Cycle contÕd 1950s - Fences (1987) Pulitzer Prize The most popular play of the cycle, and a moneymaker on Broadway, is often compared with Arthur MillerÕs "Death of a Salesman." Troy Maxson was a Negro League baseball star who spent many years in jail; now he's a trash collector Þghting for blacks to be allowed to drive as well as haul. 1960s - Two Trains Running (1991) In the aftermath of the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King and in the heyday of black power, a boastful young man named Sterling arrives at Memphis' diner to learn his way around the Hill, the community struggles against urban renewal, and individual citizens Þght for what is rightly theirs. 1970s - Jitney (1982) Out of a jitney station in the Hill, Becker and four other men hustle to make a living. In between calls, they gossip and bicker with each other. 1980s -King Hedley II (1999) Hedley, who was named King by his father, the strange West Indian in "Seven Guitars," is a tragic Þgure of great stature. In this darkest Wilson play, Hedley struggles to earn respect. 1990s - Radio Golf (2005) In this Þrst play set among the black upper middle class, Harmond Wilks is running for mayor and planning a bold redevelopment deal for the Hill District. At particular issue is 1839 Wylie, the old house that was once Aunt Ester's, as well as the relationships among race, class, and cultural identity. SLIDE 7 The power of poetry This play [Joe Turners Come and Gone] disarms its audiences with folksy chitchat and homespun comedy before it dawns on them that what theyÕre watching — in its subliminal sweep and symmetry — is close to epic poetry. Ben Brantley, NY Times review http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/04/17/theater/20090417-roger-robinson-joe-turnerscome-and-gone/index.html SLIDE 8 Who directs WilsonÕs Shows? ÒAugust told me himself that the reason he did not want white directors was because if one ever had a chance to do one of his plays on Broadway, it would be very unlikely that a black director would ever be chosen again to direct his plays on that level,Ó said Charles S. Dutton, who starred in the original production of Joe Turner at Yale Repertory Theater in 1986. ÒWeÕll see what happens now that Mr. Sher is being lauded as a major new interpreter for AugustÕs work,Ó SLIDE 9 New York Times, Apr 23, 2009 The Piano Lesson WilsonÕs Inspirations Ò4 BÕsÓ : Bessie Smith, Blues singer Romare Beardon, painter, collage-maker, writer Jorge Luis Borges, Argentine writer poet Amira Baraka, playwright 60Õs, jazz critic, social critic SLIDE 10 The Piano Lesson Artistic Director Lu Bellamy Penumbra Theatre, St. Paul, MN ÒÉTHE DEPTH OF HUMAN EXPERIENCE CAN BE FULLY REALIZED THROUGH AFRICAN AMERICAN CULTURE...Ó http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4Nyi2szYFw Prison work songs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuaPIDUQF5U&feature=related Bessie Smith ÒNobody Knows you when YouÕre Down and OutÓ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MzU8xM99Uo SLIDE 12 DISCUSSION TOPIC QUESTIONS Piano Lesson is about the treasures and baggage of the past that we carry with us. Two siblings, Berneice & Willie Boy, must wrestle literally and figuratively with how to deal with the legacy of their ancestors. 1)WHICH CHARACTER IS RIGHT? WHY? (Use evidence from the play to support your argument) 2) The play is window into the past. What historical and/or cultural element of the story was new for you? What is its meaning and relevance in the story? For a particular character? For you personally? NARROW your focus. Find out more with quick research. Some possible focus topics: ¥Southern prisons ¥Tradition of art in Africa and in America ¥Blues & blues musicians, ¥Slave-master relationships ¥Migration from south to north ¥Symbolism in the play ¥Railroads and railroad workers ¥African American Church ¥Jobs in the Ô30s ¥Ghosts ¥Breaking up of families in slavery ¥Picking cotton ¥Racism in the 30Õs ...
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