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August Wilson: Did you know...?

Seattle Rep was an artistic home to playwright August Wilson for many years until his untimely passing in 2005. Read on to learn some little-known facts about Wilson, his work, and his time at Seattle Rep.

August Wilson won Pulitzer Prizes for both Fences and The Piano Lesson.

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Stephen Tyrone Williams and Kim Staunton in Seattle Rep’s Fences (2010). Photo by Chris Bennion.

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Stephen Tyrone Williams, Derrick Lee Weeden, Yaegel T. Welch, and G. Valmont Thomas in Seattle Rep’s The Piano Lesson (2015). Photo by Chris Bennion.

Seattle Rep has featured many well-known artists in August Wilson’s works.

Just to name a few: Samuel L. Jackson starred in Fences in 1986. The first 1999 workshop and reading of King Hedley II at Seattle Rep featured Laurence Fishburne, Danny Glover, Isaiah Washington, Viola Davis, and Olivia Cole. Gem of the Ocean marked the directorial debut of Phylicia Rashad in 2007.

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Frances Foster, Samuel L. Jackson, and Robert Colston in Seattle Rep's Fences (1986). Photographer unknown.

In 2009, in honor of the playwright and his relationship with Seattle Rep, the Seattle Center campus street south of the Leo K. Theater was renamed August Wilson Way.

A 12-foot-tall archway marks the start of the street at the corner of Warren Ave. N and Republican St. The portal represents the door of Aunt Ester, the 322-year-old “spirit cleanser” from Gem of the Ocean who is referenced throughout the Cycle.

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Seattle Rep hosts the Washington branch of the August Wilson Monologue Competition.

Now in its tenth year, the competition features high school students competing for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of performing in the national finals at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway. Learn more about the competition.

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Wilson made his acting debut at Seattle Rep in 2003 with his one-man autobiographical play, How I Learned What I Learned.

Wilson himself entrusted Jitney director Ruben Santiago-Hudson to continue performing the play after his passing.

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August Wilson in How I Learned What I Learned at Seattle Rep.


After Wilson’s death, a public tribute to the playwright was held on February 13, 2006 at Seattle Rep.

Selections of The American Century Cycle were performed by well-known actors, including Ruben Santiago-Hudson (director of Jitney), Rocky Carroll, Chic Street Man, Cynthia Jones, Keith Randolph Smith (Jitney cast member), and Charlayne Woodard.

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