This episode of, “Literary Arts: The Archive Project,” is the third in our partnership with Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This week we’ll explore the work and legacy of August Wilson, centered on OSF’s upcoming production of his one-man play, How I Learned What I Learned.
August Wilson was a Pulitzer Prize–winning American playwright. His work focuses on the joys and struggles of African Americans in the 20th century. He is perhaps most well-known for the ten-play American Century Cycle; each play focuses on African American life in Pittsburgh, his hometown, in a decade of the 20th century. The cycle includes “Fences,” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” which have both been made into recent feature films.
In this conversation, How I Learned What I Learned is described as a prelude or coda to the American Century Cycle. The autobiographical, one-man play is portrait of the playwright as a young man, the story of his coming up in Pittsburgh and his time with a group of poets and artists in his Hill District neighborhood. Hearing how the play came to be is delightful, and this conversation is a wonderful introduction to one of the most important playwrights in the history of American theater, and one whose work remains incredibly relevant.
In our episode, OSF artistic director, Nataki Garrett, leads a conversation with the director, Tim Bond; the one-man play’s star, Steven Anthony Jones; and Constanza Romero, costume designer and creative consultant on the play – and August Wilson’s wife from 1994 until his death in 2005. It’s a real privilege to listen in on this conversation between four people who are not only so deeply engaged with Wilson’s work and legacy, but who actually knew him, and share sweet and funny stories.
View more information about How I Learned What I Learned on OSF’s website here: https://www.osfashland.org/en/productions/2022-plays/how-i-learned-what-i-learned.aspx
Tim Bond is thrilled to return to OSF with How I Learned What I Learned, and has directed 7 of the 10 plays that comprise August Wilson’s American Century Cycle. During his 11 seasons as Associate Artistic Director at OSF he directed 12 productions. Tim was named Artistic Director of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley in July of 2020, where he is directing August Wilson’s, “Gem of the Ocean,” in April. Past leadership posts include Producing Artistic Director at Syracuse Stage, Artistic Director at Seattle Group Theatre, Artistic Director of The Paul Robeson Theatre, and Head of the Professional Actor Training Program at the University of Washington School of Drama. Tim has guest directed at many theatres nationally and internationally, including The Market Theatre (Johannesburg), Baxter Theatre Centre (Cape Town), The Guthrie Theater, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, Arena Stage, Cleveland Play House, Indiana Rep, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arizona Theatre Company, Portland Center Stage, Dallas Theater Center, and A Contemporary Theatre (ACT). He is the recipient of two Backstage West Garland Awards, two Syracuse Area Live Theatre (SALT) Awards, and a Dallas-Fort Worth Critics Forum Award.
Nataki Garrett is the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s sixth artistic director. Since her appointment in April of 2019, she has guided the organization through numerous transitions and crises, all while building toward a more sustainable producing and fundraising model. Garrett’s forté and passion is fostering and developing new work, including those that adapt and devise new ways of performing the classics. She has directed and produced the world premieres of many well-known and important playwriting voices of our time, including Katori Hall, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Dominique Morriseau and Aziza Barnes. Garrett is a recipient of the first-ever Ammerman Prize for Directing, given by Arena Stage. She also received the National Endowment for the Arts and Theatre Communications Group Career Development Fellowship for Theatre Directors. She is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and a member of the board of directors for Theatre Communications Group, a company member at Woolly Mammoth, and an advisory board member for Mixed Blood Theatre. Garrett is a graduate of California Institute of the Arts with an MFA in directing. Full bio here.
Steven Anthony Jones was the artistic director of the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre from 2011 to 2017. He has worked professionally on stage, television, and in film for 42 years. He has performed in the works of Wilson, (Charles) Fuller, Fugard, Stoppard, Gotanda, Beckett, Pinter, Molière, Shakespeare, Chekhov, and others. Most recently, he played Becker in the Broadway tour of August Wilson’s Jitney.
Constanza Romero is a costume designer and creative consultant. She has been the executor of the August Wilson Estate since 2005; has produced Wilson’s works, including: “Jitney” (Manhattan Theater Club) and “Fences” (Cort Theatre, with Denzel Washington, 2010); and was a key participant in Q&A’s with the cast for multiple screenings of the 2016 film of “Fences” at various U.S. cities. Romero is an associate artist for Signature Theatre Company’s August Wilson Series. In five season at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Romero has worked on “The Liquid Plain,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” “The Trip to Bountiful,” “Topdog/Underdog,” “Richard II,” and “The Comedy of Errors” (OSF, Portland). She has an MFA from the Yale School of Drama, and has taught costume design at the University of Washington and scenic design at the University of California, Santa Cruz.