An Enduring Theatrical Contribution to Black Lives Matter
It was while attending a workshop in Chicago at Steppenwolf in 2000 that I took pot luck with a show at the Goodman theatre. It was August Wilson’s ‘King Hedley II’. To my shame, I had never heard of August Wilson until that evening, but I was so impressed by the show that I looked out for his work whenever performed thereafter; and have had the immense privilege of seeing most of his cycle of ten plays which describe the experience of African Americans across ten decades:
I found each play I saw to be on a par with Eugene O’Neil (my summit of praise!) but with the added quality of the entire cycle being more than the sum of its parts. It is a unique cultural contribution unmatched by any other playwright of the 20th or 21st century and, to my mind, of momentous historic importance.
To my astonishment, my ignorance of August Wilson in 2000 is matched today in the UK by that of virtually everybody I know outside the theatre community despite the fact he has had two Pulitzers and a theatre on Broadway named in his honour. My personal ambition was one day (when I had the funds!) to produce the entire cycle (a bit like Wagner’s ring cycle) so that the world could properly appreciate the immensity of August Wilson’s achievement.
The Black Lives Matter movement has made me re-think my personal ambition and realise now is the time for a social and cultural mission on a much larger scale, which recognises and promotes an extraordinary black playwright, employs black actors on a permanent basis and contributes an enduring theatrical contribution to Black Lives Matter (BLM) by acknowledging the genius of black theatre.
Find out more about the BLM Theatre initiative.