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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

 
 
UPDATED TIMELINE
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.

1959:

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

1960:

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.

1962-63:

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

1963:

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

1965:

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.

1968:

Co-founds Black Horizon Theater with Rob Penny.

1969:

Death of stepfather, David Bedford.

Marries Brenda Burton.

1970:

Daughter Sakina Ansari Wilson born (Jan. 22).

1972:

Marriage ends.

1976:

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

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

1977:

Writes "Black Bart and the Sacred Hills."

1978:

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

1980:

Fellowship at Minneapolis Playwrights Center.

1981:

Marries Judy Oliver, social worker.

1982:

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.

1983:

Death of Daisy Wilson.

1984:

"Ma Rainey" opens on Broadway.

1985:

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

1986:

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

1987:

"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.

1988:

"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).

1989:

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

Named 1990 Pittsburgher of the Year by Pittsburgh Magazine.

1990:

Speech at 1990 Pittsburgher of Year award.

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

Marriage ends; moves to Seattle.

1991:

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

1992:

Receives honorary degree from Pitt, speaks at Honors Convocation.

"Two Trains Running" opens on Broadway.

Tour of "Piano Lesson" plays Fulton Theater.

1994:

Marries Constanza Romero, costume designer.

"Piano Lesson" filmed in Pittsburgh.

1995:

"Piano Lesson" broadcast on Hallmark Hall of Fame.

1996:

"Seven Guitars" hits Broadway.

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

1997:

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

Azula Carmen Wilson born, Aug. 27.

1998:

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

1999:

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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