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August Wilson

Playwright

Born: 27 April 1945
Died: 2 October 2005 (Liver cancer)
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Best known as: Pulitzer-winning author of Fences and The Piano Lesson

Name at birth: Frederick August Kittel

August Wilson was an influential 20th-century playwright and the most prominent African American of that craft. Though he lived much of his adult life in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in Seattle, the characters and plots of his plays were inspired by realities he experienced growing up in Pittsburgh's Hill District and Oakland neighborhood: poverty, racism, and the richness of Black culture. He was noted especially for his "Decade Cycle" or "Pittsburgh Cycle," consisting of one play set in each decade of the 20th century. He won Pulitzer Prizes for The Piano Lesson (set in the 1930's; premiered on Broadway 1990) and Fences (1950's; premiered 1987, a Tony winner). The "Cycle" plays won seven New York Drama Critics Circle awards, an American Theatre Critics award, and a British Olivier Award.

Extra credit: He was called Freddy as a child after his German American father, Frederick Kittel, who was absent for much of Wilson's childhood. At age 20 he chose to be called August and took the last name of his African American mother, Daisy Wilson... He had three marriages -- to Brenda Burton (1969-1972), Judy Oliver (1981-1990) and Constanza Romero (1994 until his death) -- and two daughters: Sakina Ansari (born 1970) and Azula Carmen (1997).

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