En-Visioning and En-Acting the Century Cycle Plays of August Wilson
This course looks at the work of August Wilson (1945-2005), considered by many to be one of the best American playwrights of the 20th century. More specifically we will read and discuss his remarkable Century Cycle: Wilson’s ten plays, each representing a decade of the African-American experience. As theatre critic Christopher Rawson has argued, “This cycle is unprecedented in American theater for its concept, size, and cohesion.”
We will begin by reading Laird, Laird, Bey and Johnson’s Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans to set the historical stage of Wilson’s work. Viewings of film and other media versions of the plays will be offered in and outside of class.
This is a Writing Intensive course. Course requirements include 10 short critical, thematic or review papers of the plays (each approximately 300-500 words in length; to be submitted via the class blog); a longer theme-based essay (approximately 1,000 words); essay midterm and final exams; excellent attendance; and full participation in class discussions and in a short class production of a play.
Texts for the course can be purchased at Revolution Books. The list of the plays that we will read, organized by the representative decade:
- 1900s – Gem of the Ocean
- 1910s – Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
- 1920s – Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
- 1930s – The Piano Lesson
- 1940s – Seven Guitars
- 1950s – Fences
- 1960s – Two Trains Running
- 1970s – Jitney
- 1980s – King Hedley II
- 1990s – Radio Golf