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6 Degrees Entertainment

'August Wilson - The Ground on Which I Stand'
(DVD / NR / 2015 / PBS)

Overview: 'American Masters: August Wilson - The Ground on Which I Stand' explores the life and legacy of playwright August Wilson (April 27, 1945 October 2, 2005), the man some call America's Shakespeare, from his roots as an activist and poet to his indelible mark on Broadway.

DVD Verdict: For those not in the know, the late August Wilson was an American playwright whose work included a series of ten plays, The Pittsburgh Cycle, for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Each is set in a different decade, depicting the comic and tragic aspects of the African-American experience in the 20th century.

Watching this incredible new documentary, we discover that Wilson knew that he wanted to be a writer from an early age, but this created tension with his mother, who wanted him to become a lawyer. She forced him to leave the family home and he enlisted in the United States Army for a three-year stint in 1962, but left after one year and went back to working various odd jobs as a porter, short-order cook, gardener, and dishwasher.

Indeed, which is something that I never personally knew, Frederick August Kittel, Jr. changed his name to August Wilson to honor his mother after his father's death in 1965. That same year he discovered the blues as sung by Bessie Smith, and he bought a stolen typewriter for $10, which he would often pawn when money was tight. At 20 he decided he was a poet and submitted his poetry to such magazines as Harper's.

He began to write in bars, the local cigar store and cafes, longhand on table napkins and on yellow notepads, absorbing the voices and characters around him. He liked to write on cafe napkins because, he said, it freed him up and made him less self-conscious as a writer. He would then gather the notes and type them up at home.

Gifted with a talent for catching dialect and accents, Wilson had an "astonishing memory," which he put to full use during his career. He slowly learned not to censor the language he heard when incorporating it into his work. The rest, as the say, is pure history.

With unprecedented access to Wilson's theatrical archives, rarely seen interviews and new dramatic readings, filmmaker Sam Pollard (Slavery by Another Name) brings to life Wilson's life as if it were a play all unto itself. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Interview with the filmmaker Sam Pollard
Bonus Videos: Costume Stories, James Earl Jones, Red Door and More!

www.PBS.org





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