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August Wilson Festival

  • Location

    Arena Stage
    1101 Sixth Street SW
    Washington, DC 20024

“When considering influential American playwrights, August Wilson is a giant among giants. His ideas, language and artistry pulled American theater into the 21st century, before we had even gotten there ourselves.”

Molly Smith Artistic Director

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater will kick off the company’s season-long August Wilson Festival on Friday, September 13, 2019 with performances beginning for Jitney. Ruben Santiago-Hudson directs the 2017 Broadway production – recipient of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Play Revival. This is the first of two full productions as part of the Festival, which continues Arena Stage’s tradition of showcasing the work of American Giants in the theater, following festivals for Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee and Eugene O’Neill.

Arena Stage is proud to celebrate the Pulitzer Prize-winning giant by showcasing a variety of discussions, events and panels that reflects August Wilson’s (1945- 2005) legacy of American theater. Arena has produced nine out of the 10 plays in Wilson’s American Century Cycle, which chronicles the black experience in America throughout the 20th century.

The August Wilson Festival is generously sponsored by AARP.


Broadway World

August Wilson Festival Kicks Off Season at Arena Stage


Designers Panel: Building the World of August Wilson
September 16, 2019 from 7-8:30 p.m., with dessert reception to follow
A panel featuring several designers who worked with Wilson and helped define the world of his plays, including David Gallo (Jitney scenic designer) and Kathryn Bostic (composer for the premiere production of Gem of the Ocean, among others), moderated by Constanza Romero Wilson, costume designer and collaborator of the playwright.

August Wilson, Here and Now: A conversation with Arena Stage’s Molly Smith and Ford’s Theatre’s Paul Tetreault
September 25, 2019 from 6:30-7:15 p.m.
Join us in the Molly Smith Study before the evening performance of August Wilson’s Jitney for a discussion on the challenges, opportunities, and necessity of producing the work of August Wilson in Washington, D.C., in 2019. Arena Stage Artistic Director, Molly Smith, and Ford’s Theatre Director, Paul Tetreault, will be joined on the panel by Dr. Sandra Shannon, Howard University Professor Emerita and Founder & President of the August Wilson society, and Riley Temple, scholar and theologian. Jitney runs at Arena Stage until Sunday, October 20, and Fences opens at Ford’s Theatre Friday, September 27, until Sunday, October 27.

Writers Panel: On the Shoulders of Giants — August Wilson’s Dramatic Legacy
September 28, 2019 from 5:30-7 p.m.
A panel featuring contemporary playwrights inspired by Wilson and his work, including librettist Kirsten Childs (Bella: An American Tall Tale) poet-playwright Marcus Gardley (Arena’s Every Tongue Confess) and hip-hop theater pioneer Will Power (The Seven; Fetch Clay, Make Man).

Pre-Show Surround Discussion: Gentrification in Washington, D.C. (in partnership with the August Wilson Society)
October 16, 2019 from 6-7 p.m.
Inspired by the story of Jitney, a panel of local activists and experts will discuss the history and current status of gentrification in Washington, D.C., including Mignotae Kebede, Tony Lewis Jr., Brian McCabe and Ronald Moten. Dr. Sandra Shannon of the August Wilson Society will moderate the discussion.

Post-Show Discussion with Paul Ellis, Wilson's nephew and Executive Director of August Wilson House
October 17, 2019 following the 8 p.m. performance of Jitney

Women of Wilson Panel
April 25, 2020 from 5:30-7 p.m., with light reception starting at 5 p.m.
A panel of women, including acclaimed singer and actress Ebony Jo-Ann; award-winning actress and author Tonya Pinkins; and award-winning actress, director and producer Michele Shay, who have originated and defined Wilson’s strong female characters. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Soyica Colbert, chair of the Department of Performing Arts, director of Theater and Performance Studies and a professor of African American Studies at Georgetown University. Colbert was a dramaturg for Arena’s 2018 production of Wilson’s Two Trains Running.

Post-Show Discussion with Paul Ellis, Wilson's nephew and Executive Director of August Wilson House
April 28, 2020 following the 12 p.m. performance of Seven Guitars
Special Guest: Paul Ellis, nephew of August Wilson and executive director of August Wilson House

Pre-Show Surround Discussion: African American Music and Society (in partnership with the August Wilson Society)
April 29, 2020 from 6-7 p.m.
Inspired by the story of Seven Guitars, a panel of local experts will discuss how music speaks to the historical moment of the play, a time where the African American community was advancing culturally while undergoing profound changes due to relocation, changing tastes, and changing circumstances.

August Wilson Documentary Film Screening
"American Masters" August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand
May 4, 2020 at 7 p.m., with dessert reception to follow
With unprecedented access to Wilson's theatrical archives, rarely seen interviews and new dramatic readings, filmmaker Sam Pollard explores the life and legacy of playwright August Wilson, the man some call America's Shakespeare, from his roots as an activist and poet to his indelible mark on Broadway. 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.






















More coming soon

August Wilson Festival Shows

August Wilson's Jitney

September 13 – October 27, 2019
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August Wilson's Seven Guitars

November 26 - December 26, 2021
Learn more