A Family Matter: A Study of August Wilson’s Plays

deadline for submissions: 
September 29, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Annette M. Magid/SUNY Erie Community College
contact email: 

August Wilson was a man of vision. While Wilson was committed to portraying the “richness and resilience of the twentieth-century black American life through the medium of drama,”[1] he also set the stage for all Americans to examine their purpose and place in society. In addition to his stage portrayals, Wilson also presented his theories in his lectures such as, “The Ground on which I Stand,” where he identified himself as a “race man.” This focus brings up the question: How are his views on family matters presented in his lectures compared to those depicted in his plays? Wilson related to blues singers and their music, how does the music included in Wilson’s plays intersect with the plays’ themes.  Each play not only depicted family interaction in society, the plays also revealed interpersonal relationships within the characters’ family as well as with those ‘others’ outside their community. Now that Fences was brought into world-view as an Academy Award-winning film, what will the impact of Wilson’s plays be as we move into the twenty-first century?  The focus of this panel is to assess Wilson’s character portrayals within the ongoing cultural, political, social, and personal implications and to compare his approach with other American playwrights such as Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Lorraine Hansberry.

[1] Sandra G. Shannon and  Sandra L. Richards. 2016 Approaches to Teaching the Plays of August Wilson (New York: The Modern Language Association of America).