"Go Back and Pick up the Ball: An August Wilson Society Colloquium"

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Sandra G. Shannon/ August Wilson Society
contact email: 




“Go Back and Pick Up the Ball: An August Wilson Society Colloquium”

April 26-28, 2018


 “…the black middle class seems to be divorcing themselves from [the black] community, making their fortune on their own without recognizing or acknowledging their connection to the larger community.…We have gained a lot of sophistication and expertise and resources, and we should be helping that community.…I thought: How do I show that you can go back[?]...we have resources.…Put that expertise that we’ve gained to some use.”  —August Wilson, 2005 

Playwright August Wilson issued this passionate appeal during an interview with fellow dramatist Suzan-Lori Parks that, unfortunately, turned out to be his last. Yet his clarion call continues to ring true as violence, police brutality, unemployment, mental illness, drug addiction, unfair housing and hiring practices, and lack of access to education exact increasingly destructive tolls on black communities in cities both across this land and abroad. 

In April 2018, the August Wilson Society, in conjunction with the city of Pittsburgh’s August Wilson Center for African American Culture, will host an extraordinary three-day event: “Go Back and Pick Up the Ball: An August Wilson Society Colloquium in Pittsburgh.” This gathering, to be held April 26-28, will bring together scores of actors, directors, historians, educators, scholars, politicians, poets, members of the local Pittsburgh community, and others who have been inspired to art and action by Wilson's charge. 

Symposium participants will revisit Wilson’s American Century Cycle of plays to raise issues and fashion solutions to the myriad, pressing concerns addressed in his work. They will ask and answer significant questions raised in Wilson’s writings: What wisdom can we glean from the panoply of his memorable characters—many of whom boldly speak truth to power and employ covert yet strategic forms of resistance? How did Wilson reconcile his art with his politics? How can the lessons of the past help solve the problems of today? How can the current generation “go back and pick up the ball?” 


The August Wilson Society welcomes proposals for papers, panels, performance pieces, and roundtable discussions that embrace this central theme through the prism of Wilson’s art and politics.  These approaches can include but not be limited to any one of the following:

Politics of empowerment                                 Saving Our Institutions
“Where and when women enter”                     Reaffirming Our Nobility
The Millennial Factor                                       The Black Panther Effect  
The Struggle Continues                                   From Black Power to Black Lives Matter     
Resistance in the 21st Century                       Telling Our Stories                        
Old and new forms of resistance                     Communitas
Principles of Kwanzaa                                     Sitting at the Feet of Our Elders
Gentrification and displacement                     The Agit prop play
Channeling Social Media                                 Lifting as We Climb
Past as Present                                               Classrooms as Sacred Spaces
Race Leaders                                                  Citizenship
Expressive Tactics and Strategies                  Staying “Woke”
Dramatic Ritual                                               Black Aesthetics
Knowledge Is Power                                        Transforming Space (and Time)
Making the Old New                                        Spirit Force
Reflexive Dramaturgy                                      Modalities of Expression
Restorative Pedagogy                                     Bearing Witness
Symbolic Action                                              Lessons from the  Revolution                                                                                                                                                         Prison industrial complex                                Reviving the Village                                                                                                                                                                                     Wilson as Elder Statesman                             

Deadline for abstracts:  Please send your 250 to 500-word proposal in the body of an email to sshannon@howard.edu by March 15, 2018.  Responses will be acknowledged upon receipt and final notifications will be sent out by April 1.  Each proposal must also include the name, title, institutional affiliation (if relevant), email address and preferred telephone number

 Hotel Accommodations:  Please make your hotels reservations as soon as possible at the newly restored Drury Plaza Hotel Pittsburgh, located just across the street from the  August Wilson Center conference site.  Click on http://www.druryhotels.com/Reservations.aspx?corpid=328388 to reserve your room at a significantly discounted rate.  The Drury  Hotel is located at 745 Grant Street; Pittsburgh, PA 15219.  You may reach the front desk at 412-281-2900. Make sure that you mention the title of this event.