Gem of the Ocean Playwright August Wilson Honored by Annual Heinz Awards | Playbill

News Gem of the Ocean Playwright August Wilson Honored by Annual Heinz Awards
Lauded playwright August Wilson (Gem of the Ocean, Fences) was among the seven honorees who received the 10th annual Heinz Awards, announced the Heinz Family Foundation, Dec. 2.

Playwright August Wilson
Playwright August Wilson

"Each of these seven extraordinary individuals has made important and lasting contributions toward enhancing the health, security and understanding of our global home, and we are pleased to recognize the enduring significance of their life's work," said Foundation chairman Teresa Heinz. "Their creativity, intellect and resolve over a range of human endeavor have brought clarity and urgency to many of the world’s most pressing issues."

Mrs. Heinz established the Heinz Awards in 1993 to honor the legacy of her late husband, U.S. Senator John Heinz. The awards "recognize exceptional leadership and accomplishments in areas of particular interest to Senator Heinz," according to a release. The categories include Arts and Humanities; Environment; Human Condition; Public Policy; Technology, the Economy and Employment. The recipients each receive a $250,000 prize.

Two U.S. Senators — Richard G. Lugar (of Indiana) and former Senator Sam Nunn (of Georgia) are also being honored with the foundation’s Chairman’s Medal — awarded on occasion to "recognize a record of especially notable achievement."

Arts and Humanities award winner August Wilson is also a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990). His vast body of work — known for his decade plays that explore the African-American experience for the last century — include Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars, Jitney and King Hedley II.

Playwright Wilson made his acting debut this May performing an autobiographical one-man show How I Learned What I Learned at Seattle Repertory Theatre and his latest stageplay, Gem of the Ocean premiered to acclaim at Los Angeles's Mark Taper Forum in July. "The most important investments – and the most profitable," Senator Heinz once said, "are investments in people." For more information on The Heinz Family Philanthropies, visit

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