Theatre Matters

Contemplations on the dramatic arts from a national perspective


Steven Oxman has contributed to such publications as the Los Angeles Times, American Theatre, Stagebill, and, most frequently, Variety, for which he has written over 300 television and theatre reviews.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Death of Playwright: August Wilson

Sad news for the theatre. August Wilson passed away yesterday.

This was not unexpected, and because he'd announced his cancer a couple of months ago, the press has obviously been prepared for this event.

Charles Isherwood has a thorough, elegant obituary in the NY Times. The best, most comprehensive, quote comes from Tony Kushner, who really puts his finger on why, even for those who didn't passionately adore Wilson's writing, he meant a lot:

"He was a giant figure in American theater," the playwright Tony Kushner said yesterday. "Heroic is not a word one uses often without embarrassment to describe a writer or playwright, but the diligence and ferocity of effort behind the creation of his body of work is really an epic story.

"The playwright's voice in American culture is perceived as having been usurped by television and film, but he reasserted the power of drama to describe large social forces, to explore the meaning of an entire people's experience in American history. For all the magic in his plays, he was writing in the grand tradition of Eugene O'Neill and
Arthur Miller, the politically engaged, direct, social realist drama. He was reclaiming ground for the theater that most people thought had been abandoned."