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February Film Study: Why August Wilson?

by Francile Albright

The focus for February’s Film Study for Adults at TPH is the life and work of August Wilson. Below, Education Director Francile Albright tells us why.

During this time of deep political and cultural divide, it feels sometimes that we can no longer talk to each other. There are many important conversations that need to happen, but we retreat to our familiar bubbles and the words that need to be heard are only heard by our own choir. To have those tough conversations, sometimes, it seems, we need to speak another language. 

Everyone knows the language of film, everyone can speak to a story well-told. August Wilson said, “I write the black experience in America, and contained within that experience, because it is a human experience, are all the universalities.” The films adapted from August Wilson’s plays in his Pittsburgh Cycle, including the recently released Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, provide us with an historical backdrop that speaks to the urgency of the current moment. Intellectually, these films, beautifully directed and expertly acted, give us the opportunity to learn about the art of filmmaking, the journey from stage to screen, the differences between stage and film directors, and the craft of the actors. As a matter of heart, we can spend a moment living in the shoes of the characters on screen. Most importantly, as we celebrate Black History Month, the works of August Wilson can bring us together in a shared community, using the language of film to guide our own conversations, and to find some common humanity in our love of stories well-told. 

For more context around August Wilson, his politics, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, here is an excellent article from December 22nd in The Atlantic.

More information about the class and to register online here.