Unprecedented access to Wilson’s theatrical archives, rarely seen interviews and new dramatic readings bring to life his seminal 10-play cycle chronicling each decade of the 20th-century African-American experience, including the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Fences and Pulitzer Prize-winning The Piano Lesson.
Film and theater luminaries including Viola Davis, Charles Dutton, Laurence Fishburne, James Earl Jones, Suzan-Lori Parks and Phylicia Rashad share their stories of the career- and life-changing experience of bringing Wilson’s rich theatrical voice to the stage. Wilson’s sister Freda Ellis, his widow and costume designer Constanza Romero, as well as friends, colleagues and scholars trace Wilson’s influences, creative evolution, triumphs, struggles and quest for cultural determinism before his untimely death from liver cancer.
“Having the opportunity to explore Wilson’s creative process and his tenacity in looking at the African-American experience in the 20th century was one of the most exciting endeavors I have ever had in my film career,” said filmmaker Sam Pollard (Slavery by Another Name, American Masters – Marvin Gaye: What’s Going On), who has earned multiple Emmy and Peabody Awards as producer-editor of documentaries including When the Levees Broke and Spike Lee Presents Mike Tyson.
Filmed in the cities where Wilson made his mark, the documentary begins in Pittsburgh’s Hill District where the future playwright was a brainy, bi-racial child raised in poverty, who dropped out of high school because of bullying and prejudice. Self-educated in the city’s public library and streets, Wilson was influenced by the rising black consciousness of the 1960s and became a young, activist poet. The film follows his transition to a successful playwriting career, from the founding of the Black Horizon Theater (Pittsburgh) and his early work at the Penumbra Theater (St. Paul, Minn.) to his big break at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center’s National Playwrights Conference (Waterford, Conn.). There he began his life-changing collaboration with mentor-director Lloyd Richards, which led to nine original Broadway productions.
Launched in 1986, American Masters has earned 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series since 1999 and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 12 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards and many other honors. Now in its 29th season on PBS, the series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and also seen on the WORLD channel.
To take American Masters beyond the television broadcast and further explore the themes, stories and personalities of masters past and present, the series’ companion website (http://pbs.org/americanmasters) offers streaming video of select films, interviews, photos, outtakes, essays and more. For August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand, educational resources include a teaching guide, interactive map and biographical timeline with additional materials available via PBS LearningMedia. The goal is to equip high school educators with tools to explore Wilson’s cultural impact with students through the themes prevalent in his work: community, identity, diversity, activism, self-reliance and resilience. In Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C., WQED’s The August Wilson Education Project will conduct additional outreach in partnership with local PBS stations, schools, libraries, theaters and other community organizations. This national education outreach effort is supported by The PNC Foundation.
American Masters — August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand is a co-production of WQED and THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC’S American Masters for WNET. Sam Pollard is director and producer. Stephen Stept is writer. Frank Caloiero is director of photography. Steve Wechsler is editor. Darryl Ford Williams and Susan Lacy are executive producers. Michael Kantor is executive producer forAmerican Masters.
Major funding for August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand is provided by PNC Bank, National Endowment for the Humanities and The Heinz Endowments.American Masters is made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Rosalind P. Walter, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Rolf and Elizabeth Rosenthal, Vital Projects Fund, Rhoda Herrick, Jack Rudin; The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, the Michael & Helen Schaffer Foundation and public television viewers.
As New York’s flagship public media provider and the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than 5 million viewers each week. WNET produces and presents such acclaimed PBS series as Nature, Great Performances,American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, Charlie Rose and a range of documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings available on air and online. Pioneers in educational programming, WNET has created such groundbreaking series as Get the Math, Oh Noah! and Cyberchaseand provides tools for educators that bring compelling content to life in the classroom and at home. WNET highlights the tri-state’s unique culture and diverse communities through NYC-ARTS, Reel 13, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams and MetroFocus, the multi-platform news magazine focusing on the New York region. WNET is also a leader in connecting with viewers on emerging platforms, including the THIRTEEN Explore App where users can stream PBS content for free.
WQED changes lives by creating and sharing outstanding public media that educates, entertains, and inspires. It is the parent company of WQED-TV (PBS); WQED: The Create Channel; WORLD Channel; WQED Showcase; Classical WQED-FM 89.3/Pittsburgh; Classical WQEJ-FM 89.7/Johnstown; the Pittsburgh Concert Channel at WQED-HD2 (89.3-2FM) and online at www.wqedfm.org; local and national television and radio productions; WQED Interactive (www.wqed.org) and iQ: smartmedia, WQED’s Educational initiative (www.wqed.org/edu).
American Masters-August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand Premieres on February 20 on PBS
Production Photos: André De Shields, Bowman Wright, E. Faye Butler, KenYatta Rogers, Jessica Frances Dukes and Michael Anthony Williams in Arena Stage’s King Hedley II through March 8
Photos: Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Phylicia Rashad, John Earl Jelks, Leslie Uggams, Anthony Chisholm, S. Epatha Merkerson, Taraji P. Henson, Jesse L. Martin, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Kenny Leon and More Set for August Wilson American Century Cycle Recording Series at The Greene Space in NY, Aug. 26-Sept. 28, 2013
Photos: All-Access Pass to August Wilson’s Two Trains Running with John Earl Jelks, Harvy Blanks,Chuck Cooper, Anthony Chisholm, Owiso Odera, Roslyn Ruff and James A. Williams
Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the 2013 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, and made her jazz vocalist debut in Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz “LADY” at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York. She is profiled in Jade Magazine.
Other Articles by Lia Chang:
Video: President Obama Sends Warm Wishes for the Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year -Year of the Ram in New York Chinatown, China Institute, Sesame Street’s Alan Muraoka at Met, MoCA
Dream of the Red Chamber to be featured at the 2015 Stanford Pan-Asian Music Festival February 20-21, including the Symposium with David Gockley, Bright Sheng, David Henry Hwang and Stan Lai
Feb. 25- Mar. 1: Patrice Johnson Chevannes, Nana Mensah and Christine Osuala Set for National Black Theatre’s Workshop Production of Mfoniso Udofia’s HER PORTMANTEAU, Helmed by Victor Maog
15 Minutes with Victor Maog, Artistic Director of 2g
Rebecca Naomi Jones, Bobby Steggert, Emmanuel Brown, Lynn Cohen and More Set for Charles Mee’s BIG LOVE at Signature Theatre; Opens February 23
Feb. 20-Mar. 27: Trestle Gallery Presents “Swimming Awkward Moment,” the newest works by painter Arlan Huang
Novelist Jessica Hagedorn, Neal Katyal of Hogan Lovells, and John W. Kuo of Varian Medical Systems, to receive AALDEF 2015 Justice in Action Awards on February 23
Mar. 4: Tony Award-Winner Lillias White, Carol Fredette & More to be Honored at 30th Annual Bistro Awards at Gotham Comedy Club
Wendell Pierce, Kevin Mambo, Toccarra Cash, Thaddeus Daniels, Wendell Franklin and Megan Robinson Set for The Billie Holiday Theatre Production of Jackie Alexander’s Brothers from the Bottom, Mar. 6-29
Unsuk Chin’s Opera Alice in Wonderland, Featuring Libretto Co-Written with David Henry Hwang, Set for UK Premiere at the Barbican Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Novels on March 8, 2015
Mar. 8- 29: Pursuit of the Perfect Plate: tokyo fish story Premieres at South Coast Repertory starring Lawrence Kao, Jully Lee, Eddie Mui, Sab Shimono and Ryun Yu
Lincoln Center Theater’s The King and I, Starring Ken Watanabe, Kelli O’Hara, Ruthie Ann Miles, Conrad Ricamora, Jon Viktor Corpuz, Paul Nakauchi and More Kick off Rehearsals; Previews Begin March 12
Broadway Bound Doctor Zhivago Featuring Tam Mutu, Kelli Barrett, Tom Hewitt, Paul Nolan, Lora Lee Gayer, Melody Butiu and More Kicks Off Rehearsal; Previews Begin March 27
CAAMFest Presents Ursula Liang’s Documentary 9-Man: Northern California Premiere at the Great Star Theatre on March 13; East Bay Premiere at The New Parkway Theater on March 22
Video: BETWEEN RIVERSIDE & CRAZY’s Stephen Adly Guirgis, actor Stephen McKinley Henderson and director Austin Pendleton set for THEATER TALK
THE GET DOWN, Baz Luhrmann’s New Drama Series Set in 1970s NYC That Gave Birth to Hip-Hop, Punk and Disco, to Premiere on Netflix in 2016
The American Playwriting Foundation Creates The Relentless Award to Honor the late Philip Seymour Hoffman
Variety.com: Ken Jeong to Star in ABC Medical Comedy Pilot ‘Dr. Ken’
Photos: Hudson Yang, Randall Park, Eddie Huang, Richard Lui, Lori Tan Chinn and More at #FreshOffTheBoat Viewing Party at The Circle NYC
The Greene Space at WNYC presents Preview Screenings of ABC’s FRESH OFF THE BOAT; Conversation with Amy Chua, Awkwafina & Jay Smooth, moderated by Jeff Yang
Video and Photos: BD Wong and Russell Wong Guest Star on ‘NCIS: NEW ORLEANS’, Episode 1.13 – The Walking Dead
The Drama Book Shop Video: Playwright Ayad Akhtar, Josh Radnor and Aasif Mandvi Talk DISGRACED
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Advantageous, Oh Lucy!, Meru, Umrika, The Chinese Mayor, The Stanford Prison Experiment Among 2015 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners
Photos: Lillias White, Scott Wakefield, Ebony Jo-Ann, Tina Fabrique, Marjorie Johnson, Akin Babatundé, Alan Govenar and More at TEXAS IN PARIS at The York Theatre Company
New York City Blizzard Does Not Deter Broadway Icon Chita Rivera From Performing in Concert Taping for THIRTEEN’s Great Performances Series
The Old Globe Presents World Premiere of Christopher Gattelli Helmed IN YOUR ARMS Featuring Vignettes written by David Henry Hwang, Rajiv Joseph, Douglas Carter Beane, Nilo Cruz, Christopher Durang, Carrie Fisher, Terrence McNally, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage, and Alfred Uhry, September 16 – October 25
Rajiv Joseph Wins Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award for New Play Guards at the Taj; Set for World Premiere at Atlantic Theater Company in May
Photos: Tony Award Winning Playwright David Henry Hwang, NEFA, Graham Sheffield CBE and Susan Stockton Receive 2015 ISPA Awards
Photos: Late Night at HERE LIES LOVE with Jaygee Macapugay, David Byrne, Jose Llana, Conrad Ricamora, Melody Butiu and More
THE WIZ Turns 40- Photos from Original Broadway Production and BC/EFA Gypsy of The Year Celebration Featuring André De Shields, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ken Page, Charl Brown, Carly Hughes, Christina Sajous, Alton Fitzgerald White, Lillias White and More
Photos: Fashion Designer Josie Natori at New Boutique in Nolita; Honored by Asian Cultural Council
Photos: Ellen Burstyn, Baz Luhrmann, John Leguizamo, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Stephen McKinley Henderson, John Patrick Shanley, David Henry Hwang, Liza Colón-Zayas, Kenneth Lonergan and More Celebrate Stephen Adly Guirgis at The Mimi Awards
Photos: Tommy Tune, Bob Avian, Lee Roy Reams, Christine Toy Johnson, Orville Mendoza, Lori Tan Chinn, Raul Aranas, Virginia Wing and More Celebrate 2014 Paul Robeson Citation Award Recipient Baayork Lee Crafting a Career
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at email@example.com