August Wilson died yesterday in Seattle. I doubt most Americans have ever heard of him. Wilson was a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright.
He died too young of liver cancer at age sixty. Wilson was a giant of the American theatre because he knew his craft so well. He knew about story and form and arc. But, above all Wilson was a writer, a chronicler of time and place and people and events. He told the stories of African-Americans. His words, the speeches of his characters will live forever because of the pain and power that infused the language Wilson so skillfully used.
I got to see James Earl Jones in Wilson's "Fences" on Broadway some years back. It was the perfect artistic marriage. Jones as the would-be baseball star stuck in a job collecting garbage, the genius of Wilson's words and the virtuosity of Jones' performance made it unforgettable.
The saddest thing about Wilson's passing — most Americans don't know him.
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By Harry Smith