Like Ibsen and Shaw before him, August Wilson (1945–2005) promised theatergoers an instructive portion of sociological lament, but in Wilson’s case the implied additional value was first-person verisimilitude, reportage, personally witnessed truths coaxed out of little-explored corners and held up for examination. Wilson was black, and black American artists carry the expectation, or burden, of presumed authenticity. He did not disappoint. In his monumental ten-play cycle chronicling one episode of working-class black American life for each decade of the twentieth century, Wilson built from the ground up: his characters are his plays. Far from being teased and coaxed to produce in the bourgeois white theater-loving audience a reassuring takeaway about its own paramount responsibility for the plight of blacks, Wilson’s strivers and schemers create a sense that we’re eavesdropping on real...

 

A Message from the Editors

Our past successes are owed to our greatest ambassadors: our readers. Our future rests on your support, as The New Criterion Editor Roger Kimball explains. Will you help us continue to bring our incisive review of the arts and culture to the next generation of readers?

Popular Right Now