Chapter 3 - pages 47-58.docx

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University of Texas at Austin
Theatre and dance
T D 301
Amy Guenther

Chapter 3 pg. 47-58 The Playwright’s Vision • August Wilson turned to playwriting to present the history of African Americans that he saw on the streets, on the stage, where his characters would come to life and share their revelations with people across the country o 1980s – began writing a series of plays chronicling African American life in US through the stories of ordinary people th o For each decade of 20 century, he makes a play about a sampling (few specific characters reflecting the entire population and its struggles ) of the African American society of the time  1 = Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom: Set in 1920s, World of black jazz musicians seeking recognition and ownership of their music ( only one set up in Chicago, rest in home town of Pittsburgh’s Hill District )  Fences: Set in 1950s, Former baseball player, forced by racial circumstances to become a garbage hauler, battles his son to justify his own life  The Piano Lesson: Set in the 1930s, Brother and sister fight over the fate of an old piano (relatives carved in legs). Bro wants to sell, sis can’t allow that because it symbolizes the presence of her ancestors  Two Trains Running: Set in 1969, Characters gather in a diner and find the determination in each other’s company to take their place with dignity in the hostile urban environment of Pittsburg  Seven Guitars: Set in 1940s, Musicians struggles leading up to his death  King Hedley II: 1980s, Looks at struggles of an ex-convict, trying to make a life for himself  Fitney: 1970s, Inner city tensions through the world of unlicensed cab drivers  Gem of the Ocean & Radio Golf: the beginning and the ending of the ten- play 100 year cycle. Gem of the Ocean = start of century, about a 300 year old woman who can cleanse people’s souls. Radio Golf = end of century, returns to the residence of that old woman which is now a high- rise development  Joe Turner’s Come and Gone: Set in 1911, follows Gem of the Ocean, brings us characters close to slavery • Focus of chapter = artistic vision of playwright, that emerges from his imagination and is shaped by his personal history/ responses to cultural influences. • Exploring the text of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone o About the aftermath of slavery, the damage done to the spirit, which must be healed before people can take their rightful place in the world  New form of forced labour, worst = chain gang  Main character: Herald Loomis • Just served 7 years in chain gang of Joe Turner in Tennessee • Going north in search of wife o Separated when kidnapped by Joe Turner • Joins a group of peeps he meets at a boardinghouse in Pittsburgh o Most of the group part of the movement from South to North in search of a better life • Plot and Characters: A meeting of 2 worlds o Starts in boardinghouse = haven for struggling young black men/women, full of energy and longing, trying to make a start in a northern city  Bertha = biscuits + sensible council  Bynum = “rootworker” + special wisdom + herbs/powders + mystical visions to help them find themselves ( yay drugs )  Seth + Bertha = who the ppl look to for practical necessities of life  Everyone has a story to tell o Calm environment disrupted with arrival of threatening man (Herald Loomis)  Withdrawn, abrupt, unlike the open and at ease character of the boardinghouse  Keeps himself hidden • Joe Turner and the chain gang = extension of slavery, hides his torment and shame of the legacy o Represent the 300 years of slavery, with its endless sorrows and dislocation  He must rid himself of Joe Turner’s ghost before he can find himself and begin life as a free man • Historical and Cultural Contexts of the Play o Wilson’s perspective is shaped by the experiences of being black American + through the inspiration of other artists  Came of age in 1960s (black cultural awareness led to a major reassessment of American history and the relationship of black Americans to the society in which they lived) -> ideas of “self-determination, self- respect, and self-defense” = crucial  Discovered the blues – provided a musical/oral outlet for history & life of African Americans • Fascinated with singer Bessie S
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