July 2021 short course - Layman's Guide to the August Wilson American Century Cycle

The full study group covering all ten plays in August Wilson's American Century Cycle has exceeded my expectations in terms of interest and level of engagement by members of our community. But not everybody can commit to ten weeks of study. This short course will focus on an analysis of the Cycle as a whole body of work, concentrating on overlapping themes across the decades, inter-generational characters and their families, and groupings of plays based on structure, content matter, and relevance.

Over a six hour short course (two hours each day for three consecutive days), we will look at theme and character development in at least six plays of the ten-play cycle.

Day One: introduction, the Four B’s, and the plays inspired by Romare Bearden collages: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, and Fences.




Day Two: the bookend plays: Gem of the Ocean (1904) and Radio Golf (1997).



Day Three: the prequel and the sequel plays: Seven Guitars (1948) and King Hedley II (1985), and concluding remarks on the Cycle.



There will be no requirement to purchase or read any one entire play, much to my regret. Time will not allow it for the short course. I urge participants to read the consolidated notes to each play being covered in advance for background. The consolidated notes are here on this substack along with various links to associated content. Participants will have complete access to substack content for all plays for a nominal subscription fee of $10.

I will talk and share curated videos for an hour and we will do Q’s and A’s for half an hour each day.