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August Wilson to give Martin Luther King Celebration keynote

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson will give the keynote address for the 1999 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week Jan. 10-17. Wilson will speak at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 14. The location of his talk will be announced at a later date.

Wilson's work has been produced for Broadway as well as regional theaters across the country. He received Pulitzer prizes for Fences, which also won a Tony Award, in 1987 and for The Piano Lesson in 1990. Wilson's other plays include Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; Joe Turner's Come and Gone; Two Trains Running; and Seven Guitars. Jitney, one of his early works, currently is being performed at the Huntington Theater in Boston.

Harry Elam, the Christensen Professor for the Director of Introduction to Humanities and a professor of drama, called Wilson one of "the most prominent American playwrights working on the stage." Elam noted that Wilson has taken an active interest in developing "future definitions of what black theater is and what it can do." In recent months, Elam said, Wilson has convened several black theater summits that brought together business leaders, community activists and philanthropists to talk about the economic future of African American theater.

"Rather than just speaking to these issues through his oral rhetoric, he felt it as important to put theory into practice," said Elam, who has taught courses on Wilson's work and has directed his work on stage.


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