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Late, Great Playwright August Wilson’s ‘Beautiful Legacy’ Comes To Life in New Documentary

20MASTERS-articleLargeThe late August Wilson, one of the great playwrights of all time, has been memorialized in a new documentary by award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard that will be featured on PBS around the country this week.

August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand has been described as a “beautiful legacy” to an artist that gave us Tony Award-winning plays like Fences and The Piano Lessons, Two Trains Running, Jitney and Gem of the Ocean, among others.

The film takes viewers inside the mind of the immensely talented Wilson, who grew up under impoverished circumstances in Pittsburgh.

He considered his plays “doors” into the black experience. Wilson’s brilliance was that he crafted poignant stories about African-American life from various decades, offering history lessons while entertaining.

In the film, according to Huffington Post, several award-winning actors, who loved the man and the plays he created, shared his life through first-hand stories.

This film comes at time when America is in the midst of a racial divide that has seen young Black men killed by law enforcement far too often and vast disparities in income, housing jobs and other elements of life. Those are the stories Wilson told over his luminous career that earned him two Pulitzer Prizes.

Wilson, who died of cancer in 2005, said he had a unique way of creating stories and characters.

“Generally,” he said once to The New York Times, “I start with a line of dialogue, and often I don’t know who’s talking or why they’re talking. And then I will give the character a name, and by probing him and questioning him, I begin to find out things I need to know about the character, and out of that will emerge a story.”

The Times said of the documentary: “What makes this a particularly satisfying “American Masters,” especially for theater lovers, is its generous helping of clips of well-regarded actors like Phylicia Rashad and Roscoe Orman performing excerpts from Wilson’s plays. Having heard his description of how his characters start out, we now get to see their fully formed selves.”

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