Dr. Todd Boyd Explains Why August Wilson Was No Tyler Perry

The Notorious Ph.D schools us...

The name of the late playwright August Wilson rings like a bell in literary and dramatic circles. Wilson, however, remains an unknown quantity in the world of Hollywood. This giant of the stage and master of dramatic prose has been a non-entity on the silver screen. Why, one might ask, has the work of the Pulitzer Prize and multiple Tony Award winner never been accorded the celebrated Hollywood green light?

The answer to such a question is both simple and complex. The 10 plays that comprise what has been called Wilson's ''Pittsburgh Cycle''--featuring a different drama relative to African-American existence set in each decade of the 20th century--is not your average run-of-the-mill cycle of black representation. The complex, nuanced, dialogue-driven, historical portrait of blackness across the previous century is not easily reducible to the type of rote clichés that often define racial representation in Hollywood these days. Since Wilson was not known for creating gun-toting grandmothers in drag or chicken-stealing incest victims, his work would probably seem alien to those who embrace such examples of postmodern minstrelsy as authentic black life. In the contemporary culture of Hollywood--where tired remakes, unnecessary sequels, big budget sci-fi schlock, and the tedious adaptation of old television shows rules the day--an appreciation of Wilson's more deliberate, methodical approach is about as incongruous as the thought of Alice Waters owning a McDonald's franchise. Wilson's work is too intelligent to survive the dreaded industry development process, where all the creative life is often sucked from potentially brilliant works.

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Notorious Ph.D.: Why August Wilson Was No Tyler Perry

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