Remarkable Receptions

August Wilson -- ep. by Nicole Dixon

January 22, 2023 Nicole Dixon Season 8 Episode 6
Remarkable Receptions
August Wilson -- ep. by Nicole Dixon
Show Notes Transcript

A short take on  August Wilson and film adaptations of his work. 

Written by Nicole Dixon.

Read by Kassandra Timm.

Originally, Frederick August Kittel was a poet and short story writer. In 1977 he transformed one of his poems into a play with surprising success. That composition began his career writing plays. Today, we know and laud that playwright as August Wilson. 

You’re listening to Remarkable Receptions – a podcast about popular and critical responses to African American novels.

Referred to as theater's poet of Black America by the New York Times, Wilson produced a 10-play series known as the Century Cycle. Each play covered a different decade throughout the 20th century. 

Wilson’s play Fences from 1987 earned him his first Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the 1990 play The Piano Lesson earned him his second. 

Those two award-winning plays, along with Wilson’s 1984 play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, later became films.  The play was first adapted into a film in 1995, starring Charles S. Dutton and Alfre Woodard. 

In 2016, Denzel Washington directed and starred alongside Viola Davis in a film adaptation of Wilson’s Fences. The movie received critical acclaim with the American Film Institute naming it one of the top ten films that year. 

Washington then produced Ma Rainey’s in 2020. Davis starred again, this time alongside the late actor Chadwick Boseman. Much like Fences, this film received universal praise and was named a top ten film. It also made history at the Screen Actors Guild Awards when Davis and Boseman became the first Black actors to win in leading categories in the same year. 

Washington has pledged the rest of his career toward continuing Wilson’s legacy through film. Washington’s commitment will ensure that Wilson’s works receive a continued reception. 


This episode was written by Nicole Dixon. The episode was edited by Elizabeth Cali and Howard Rambsy II.


This podcast, Remarkable Receptions, is part of the Black Literature Network, a joint project from African American literary studies at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and the History of Black Writing at the University of Kansas. The project was made possible by the generous support of the Mellon Foundation.  For more information, visit