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15 Oct 2009

Impacters of Yesterday

Impacters, Yesterday No Comments

August Wilson P. II

A Fruitful Partnership

Mr. Wilson’s career was closely linked with that of Lloyd Richards, who became the first black director to work on Broadway when he staged the first play written by a black woman to be produced on Broadway, Lorraine Hansberry’s “Raisin in the Sun,” in 1959. Ms. Hansberry’s warmhearted but clear-eyed play about the struggles of a black family to move up the economic ladder in Chicago shares with Mr. Wilson’s work a focus on the daily lives of black Americans, relegating the oppressions of white culture to the background.

Mr. Richards, the dean of the Yale School of Drama and the artistic director of Yale Repertory Theater from 1979 to 1991, was also the head of the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference in Connecticut when Mr. Wilson submitted “Ma Rainey” to the program. (“Jitney,” begun in 1979, had been submitted and rejected twice.) When it was accepted, Mr. Richards helped refine the work of the then-unknown writer and first produced and directed it at Yale Rep, where its success instantly established Mr. Wilson as an American playwright of singular talent, perhaps the greatest American stage poet since¬†Tennessee Williams.

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