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August Wilson - a timeline

Originally published Dec. 5, 1999

Thursday, December 16, 1999

Compiled by Chris Rawson, Post-Gazette Drama Critic

For a more complete version of this Timeline from 2005, click here. The Post-Gazette also has an August Wilson Index with links to more than 80 interviews, reviews and news stories, including some of his speeches, a comprehensive obituary and a photo journal: click here to the index.

April 27, 1945:

Born Frederick August Kittel to Daisy Wilson and Frederick Kittel, a red-haired baker who emigrated from Germany at 10. The fourth child of six, his siblings are: Freda Ellis (the Hill), Linda Jean Denoya (Swissvale), Edwin Kittel (Dormont), Donna Conley (Erie), Richard Kittel.Family later moves to Hazelwood then back to the Hill.


Only black student in Central Catholic High School; threats and abuse drive him away. Connelley Vocational proves unchallenging.


Drops out of Gladstone High School 10th grade when a teacher accuses him of plagiarizing a 20-page paper on Napoleon. Gets his own education at the library and on the street.


Enlists in U.S. Army for three years, leaves after one.


Varied jobs - porter, short-order cook, gardener, dishwasher.


Discovers the blues - Bessie Smith's "Nobody Can Bake a Sweet Jelly Roll Like Mine."

Death of biological father, Frederick Kittel; changes name to August Wilson.

Buys his first typewriter ($20); writes poetry.

Moves into rooming house on Bedford Avenue.


Co-founds Black Horizon Theater with Rob Penny.


Death of stepfather, David Bedford.

Marries Brenda Burton.


Daughter Sakina Ansari Wilson born (Jan. 22).


Marriage ends.


Vernell Lillie directs his "The Homecoming" for Kuntu Theater.

Sees "Sizwe Bansi Is Dead" at Public Theater, his first professional play.


Writes "Black Bart and the Sacred Hills."


Moves to St. Paul, Minn., with advice of friend Claude Purdy; lands job writing for Science Museum.


Fellowship at Minneapolis Playwrights Center.


Marries Judy Oliver, social worker.


National Playwrights Conference at O' Neill Theater Center accepts "Ma Rainey"; meets O' Neill chief Lloyd Richards, who goes on to direct his six plays on Broadway.

"Jitney" staged by Allegheny Repertory Theatre in Pittsburgh.


Death of Daisy Wilson.


"Ma Rainey" opens on Broadway.


"Ma Rainey" wins his first New York Drama Critics award.


Reunion of Centre Avenue Poets Theater Workshop with Maisha Baton, Rob Penny, etc.


"Fences" opens on Broadway, wins Pulitzer, grosses $11 million in its first year (Broadway record for a non-musical).

Kuntu stages Pittsburgh premiere of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.


"Joe Turner" opens on Broadway.

Lectures at The Carnegie's Man and Ideas series on "Blacks, Blues and Cultural Imperialism."

Appears on Bill Moyers' "World of Ideas" (PBS).


"Fences" first Wilson play staged by Pittsburgh Public Theater.

Named 1990 Pittsburgher of the Year by Pittsburgh Magazine.


Speech at 1990 Pittsburgher of Year award.

"Piano Lesson" opens on Broadway, wins Pulitzer Prize.

Marriage ends; moves to Seattle.


"Three Plays by August Wilson," University of Pittsburgh Press.


Receives honorary degree from Pitt, speaks at Honors Convocation.

"Two Trains Running" opens on Broadway.

Tour of "Piano Lesson" plays Fulton Theater.


Marries Constanza Romero, costume designer.

"Piano Lesson" filmed in Pittsburgh.


"Piano Lesson" broadcast on Hallmark Hall of Fame.


"Seven Guitars" hits Broadway.

Revises "Jitney" for professional premiere at Pittsburgh Public Theater.


Public debate in New York City with critic Robert Brustein on status of black theater.

Azula Carmen Wilson born, Aug. 27.


Convenes Dartmouth conference on African American Theater that establishes African Grove Institute of the Arts; major "gathering of the tribes" planned for 2002.


Honored at 100th anniversary of Hill District Branch Library (March 18).

Round-table discussion with three other black playwrights at Public Theater. Marion McClinton says, "August is Michael Jackson at this table."

Named by Post-Gazette as top Pittsburgh cultural power broker.

"King Hedley II" premieres.


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