'American Masters — August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand'
The documentary about Pittsburgh's Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright is premiering on WQED and PBS.
During an event that also marked the rebirth of the downtown cultural center that bears his name, a group of August Wilson’s collaborators and biographers spoke of the late playwright with amazed reverence.
“August has a strange way of always reminding you that he lingers,” says Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who won a best actor Tony for his work in Wilson’s “Seven Guitars.”
“It was really something to work with a master — this master — in the room,” says Phylicia Rashad, who received a Tony nomination for her iconic portrayal of “Gem of the Ocean” matriarch Aunt Ester. “August Wilson understood the power of the word.”
In invoking the term “master,” Rashad nodded to the documentary that brought this group on Thursday night to the newly reopened August Wilson Center for African-American Culture.
“American Masters — August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand,” which premieres at 9 p.m. tonight on WQED and on other PBS stations, captures the life and career of the Hill District native through archival and historical footage, snippets of Wilson’s plays and new interviews with experts and collaborators including James Earl Jones, Viola Davis, Charles Dutton, Laurence Fishburne and Wilson’s widow and frequent costume designer, Constanza Romero (who also appeared at Thursday’s event alongside the documentary’s producer and director, Sam Pollard; its executive producer, Darryl Ford Williams; and its composer, Kathryn Bostic).
Though the “American Masters” treatment was acknowledged as long overdue, its timing marks the 70th anniversary of Wilson’s birth and the 10th anniversary of his death. For viewers, it's a thorough and moving portrait of the man rightfully dubbed “America’s Shakespeare.” For Pittsburghers, it’s an emotional remembrance of a bygone era in our shared history and a powerful salute to perhaps the finest artist and thinker to ever call our city home.
Editor's Note: Todd Kreidler, who helped to conceive Wilson's final written work, has returned to Pittsburgh to direct that play, continuing his mission to keep the master’s words alive. Read more here.