Five College Word! Pays Tribute to August Wilson

Hampshire College will take its turn this year at hosting the popular Five College festival of staged readings of student plays called WORD! Now in its tenth year, WORD! furnishes a venue for student scripts whose themes reflect issues of race and diversity. It is sponsored by the Five College Multicultural Theater Committee with support from the Five College Theater Chairs.

In a departure from its traditional format, WORD! will be done in two segments this year, with the first segment on Monday, March 13, devoted to staged readings of works by students and the second, on Tuesday, March 14, as a tribute to the distinguished African American playwright August Wilson, who died on October 2, 2005.

Natalie Sowell, who teaches interdisciplinary arts and children's theater at Hampshire College, is overseeing the production this year. Sowell, who also serves as a member of the Five College Multicultural Theater Committee, commented on the decision to devote the second evening of WORD! to Wilson's memory. Wilson, she noted, "believed that theater had great power to raise consciousness, and that belief is at the heart of what WORD! is all about."

An obituary that appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazettethe day after he died at the age of 60 described Wilson as "the flagship of contemporary black theater," citing his many awards, which included a Tony, two Pulitzers, three American Theatre Critics Awards, and seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards. "In dramatizing the glory, anger, promise and frustration of being black in America," the obituary said, "he created a world of the imagination--August Wilson's Hill District--to rank with such other transformational fictional worlds as Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha, Hardy's Wessex or Friel's Donegal." Among his best-known work is the series of ten plays known as the Pittsburgh Cycle, so-called because all but one of the plays is set in the Hill District of Pittsburgh where Wilson grew up.

On Monday, March 13, at 7:30 pm in Hampshire's Main Stage in Emily Dickinson Hall the works of three students will be presented as staged readings:

Gabriela Blanco-Bobea
Hampshire College (Gallo)

Eve Crusto '08
Mount Holyoke College (Love Like Trees)

Aida Mbowa '07
Mount Holyoke College (Mumbi)

Each of the students will receive a $100 award from the James Baldwin Fund and a written critique by dramaturg Migdalia Cruz, who will view the performance.

On Tuesday, March 14, a second night of readings will feature excerpts from the plays of August Wilson presented in the Red Barn at Hampshire College, beginning at 7:30 pm. As a special feature of the evening, Manu Mukasa will offer a presentation entitled "August Wilson's Blues Poetics." Those reading from and commenting on Wilson's plays will include Five College faculty, staff, and guest artists: playwright Migdalia Cruz; Manu Mukasa and Constance Congdon, department of theater and dance, Amherst College; Michael Ford, dean of the College and dean of students, Hampshire; Rochelle Calhoun, executive director, Alumnae Association, Mount Holyoke; Albert Mosley, department of philosophy, Smith College; Charlena Seymour, provost, UMass Amherst; and Sheila Petigny, community artist.

Migdalia Cruz will offer opening remarks and playwright Constance Congdon of Amherst College will bring the evening to a close with her thoughts on Wilson and his contributions to the American theater. The current members of the Five College Multicultural Theater Committee are Manu Mukasa, Amherst; Natalie Sowell, Hampshire; Roger Babb, Mount Holyoke; Ed Check, Smith; Priscilla Page and Gilbert McCauley, UMass Amherst; Andrea Assaf, New WORLD Theater; and Lorna M. Peterson and Carol Aleman, Five Colleges.

Related Links

Five College Multicultural Theater