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The Return to the Hill

IN AUGUST WILSON’S HOW I LEARNED WHAT I LEARNED, AUGUST WILSON SHARES HIS EXPERIENCES GROWING UP IN THE HILL DISTRICT OF PITTSBURGH. BORN AND RAISED THERE, WILSON DREW LIFE-LONG INSPIRATION FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD WHILE WRITING HIS ACCLAIMED CENTURY CYCLE.

(C) Bill Wade

August Wilson stands outside of his childhood home at 1727 Bedford Avenue where he lived with his mother and six siblings until he was 13. Wilson’s mother had a positive impact on his life, and he would later dedicate Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom to her.

“Every child acquires the language, eating habits, gestures, notions of common sense, the attitudes towards sex, the concepts of beauty and justice and the responses to the pleasure and pain from the people who raise them.” 


 

(C) Terry Clark

Pat’s Place, a cigar store in the Hill District, was where the elders of the community would gather. Many became muses for characters in Wilson’s plays.

“And I would stand around and I would listen to them, trying to learn something about life.” 

(C) Terry Clark

Wilson sits at the Crawford Grill, a popular destination for musical acts, and hotspot for many of the characters in Wilson’s plays. In 1966, Wilson listened to John Coltrane play at the Grill, which later influenced his love of jazz and blues music.

“It remains one of the most remarkable moments of my life. To see [people] stunned into silence by the power of art and the soaring music of John Coltrane and his exploration of man’s connection to the divinity.”

(C) John d. Kisch

Wilson spent a considerable time in rehearsal at the Huntington during the premiere productions of his Century Cycle. “I have a long and valued relationship with the Huntington,” said Wilson. “They have contributed enormously to my development as a playwright, and I guard that relationship jealously.” Wilson stands in front of the poster for his play Seven Guitars, staged at the Huntington in 1995.

“To arrive at this moment in my life, I have traveled many roads, some circuitous, some brambled and rough, some sharp and straight, and all of them have led as if by some grand design to the one burnished with art.”

 


 


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