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Goodman Theatre announces initial programming for August Wilson celebration

The Goodman Theatre today unveiled initial programming for the spring 2015 citywide “August Wilson Celebration.”

The seven-week retrospective of the late playwright’s life, artistry and influence on culture, presented by the Goodman in collaboration with Chicago’s various off-Loop theaters and Northwestern University, will take place in March and April, marking the 70th anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize winner’s birth (in 1945) and the 10th anniversary of his death (in 2005).

The Goodman is the first theater in the world to produce every play in Wilson’s 10-play cycle exploring the 20th century African-American experience.

“No artistic collaborator of the past 90 years has been more important to the Goodman than playwright August Wilson,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls in a prepared statement. “His work was first seen by Goodman audiences in 1986 with ‘Fences,’ starring James Earl Jones. Over the next 20 years, the Goodman became a primary artistic home to Wilson and the birthplace of two world-premiere productions, ‘Seven Guitars’ and ‘Gem of the Ocean.’ Chuck Smith, who directed our memorable production of ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ in 1997 and has the distinction of serving as August’s dramaturg on ‘Gem of the Ocean,’ has assembled a powerhouse line-up that promises to make the celebration a major American cultural event of 2015.”

Programming highlights include:

“August Wilson in Chicago” celebration kickoff event March 9 at the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State.

“Two Trains Running” gets a major revival at Goodman Theatre, 175 N. Dearborn (March 7-April 12, 2015), directed by Goodman resident director Chuck Smith. Individual tickets ($25-$79; subject to change) are on sale now at the box office or GoodmanTheatre.org.

One-night-only FREE readings of the other nine plays in the 20th Century Cycle at off-Loop theaters and community venues, including MPAACT, Congo Square Theatre Company, Pegasus Theatre Chicago, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, eta Creative Arts Foundation and Court Theatre.

A series of lectures and discussions featuring acclaimed artists and scholars will shine a spotlight on the cities where Wilson did his landmark work: Chicago, St. Paul, New Haven and New York.

Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad in discussion with Tony Award-nominee Michele Shay about the female characters in Wilson’s work, March 22 at Black Ensemble Theatre.

“August Wilson: From Poet to Playwright,” presented by the Poetry Foundation of Chicago, March 25 at Poetry Foundation, 61 W. Superior.

“The State of Black Theater in America: Past, Present and Future,” a major summit of leading African-American artists and educators in discussion, April 13 at Goodman.

Seminars for high school teachers, intended to encourage the inclusion of Wilson’s work in high school curricula.

“How I Learned What I Learned,” Wilson’s one-man autobiographical play performed by actor/playwright Ruben Santiago-Hudson, March 30 at Northwestern University.

“King Hedley II” — a concert reading by Congo Square Theatre (April 18).

For programming/event schedule updates and more information, visit goodmantheatre.org