First Major August Wilson Biography in the Works

Book News   First Major August Wilson Biography in the Works
Patti Hartigan, who covered many of Wilson's plays as a Boston Globe critic, will pen the book.
August Wilson
August Wilson David Cooper

Patti Hartigan, a former Boston Globe theatre writer with a longtime connection to August Wilson, will pen the first major biography of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. The book, tentatively titled August Wilson: The Kiln in Which He was Fired, is expected to be published in late 2019, according to The New York Times.

Hartigan was among the first to review many of Wilson's works, as eight of his plays were produced at Boston’s Huntington Theatre Company before transferring to New York. The two had first met in 1987 (around the time of the premiere of The Piano Lesson, which won Wilson his first Pulitzer) and remained in communication since. Hartigan will work with complete cooperation from Constanza Romero, Wilson’s widow, who handles his estate.

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis Paramount Pictures

While Wilson wrote several poems and plays that remain unpublished or unproduced, his magnum opus—the 10-play “Pittsburgh Cycle”—earned him two Pulitzer Prizes (in 1987 for Fences and 1990 for The Piano Lesson) and continues to be represented on stage and screen. The first play he wrote for the series, Jitney, is now playing on Broadway at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. He received a posthumous Oscar nomination this year for his screenplay for the film adaptation of Fences. Denzel Washington, who won a Tony Award in 2010 for his performance in the Broadway revival, reprised his performance on screen and directed the film; the remaining nine plays of the cycle are in development for HBO movie treatments under Washington’s leadership.

“I want it to be a legacy biography, and a literary biography that shows how the artist can’t ever be separate from the art,” Hartigan told the Times. “The life is reflected in the art. I want it to show him as a human being and an artist.”

The biography will be published by 37 INK, an imprint of Atria Books.

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