Generous Orthodoxy  




Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Race in America: the humanity of August Wilson 1945-2005
(excerpts from obituary in The New York Times 10/3/05)

Mr. Wilson did not write plays with specific political agendas, but he did believe art could subtly effect social change. And while his essential aim was to evoke and ennoble the collective African-American experience, he also believed his work could help rewrite some of those rules.

"I think my plays offer (white Americans] a different way to look at black Americans," he told The Paris Review. "For instance, in Fences they see a garbageman, a person they don’t really look at, although they see a garbageman every day. By looking at Troy’s life, white people find out that the content of this black garbageman’s life is affected by the same things [as theirs]—-love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty. Recognizing that these things are as much part of his life as theirs can affect how they think about and deal with black people in their lives."

...[Wilson] was a connoisseur of the art of storytelling offstage and on. Here’s the story behind all his character’s stories, in his own words: "I once wrote a short story called ‘The Best Blues Singer in the World’ and it went like this: ‘The streets that Balboa walked were his own private ocean, and Balboa was drowning.’ End of story. That says it all. Nothing else to say. I’ve been rewriting that same story over and over again. All my plays are rewriting that same story. I’m not sure what it means other than life is hard."