Mike Curb Institute at Rhodes to Sponsor August Wilson Celebration


Publication Date: 8/10/2007

Charles Dutton (©2007 Soylent Communications)

The Mike Curb Institute for Music at Rhodes College, with additional support from Hattiloo Theatre and The University of Memphis, will present the August Wilson Celebration September 19-22.

On Wednesday, Sept. 19, Charles S. Dutton, who gained acclaim for his 1990s television sitcom “Roc,” will headline the celebration with a one-man tribute to the playwright titled “Goodnight Mr. Wilson.” The performance begins at 8 p.m. in the McCallum Ballroom of the Bryan Campus Life Center on the Rhodes campus with a reception following.

It is free but seating is by ticket. Tickets for the public will be available for pickup beginning September 5 at the Rhodes Box Office (901-843-3839).

In “Goodnight Mr. Wilson,” Dutton presents humorous, moving, and transforming excerpts from Wilson’s plays. Dutton made his Broadway debut in 1984 as trumpet player Levee in Wilson′s "Ma Rainey′s Black Bottom” and as a result received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor. Dutton became one of the playwright’s most passionate performers and “The Piano Lesson” brought Dutton a second Tony Award nomination for Best Actor.

Dutton, who studied at the Yale School of Drama, also is an Emmy Award-winning actor and director. His television/screen credits include "The Practice,” “Without a Trace,” “Oz,” “Alien3,”  “Crocodile Dundee,” “A Time to Kill,” “The Corner” and “Against the Ropes.”

The August Wilson Celebration in Memphis is the brainchild of Hattiloo Theatre with plans of making the celebration an annual event. Music, particularly jazz and the blues, was a muse for Wilson’s writings, and he employed music to represent the souls and identities of his characters.

As part of the celebration, Hattiloo Theatre will present “The August Wilson Songbook,” a collection of songs culled from Wilson′s works and a tribute conceived by Hattiloo director Ekundayo Bandele and University of Memphis African American literature professor Ladrica Menson-Furr.

In addition, the celebration will include a bus tour to Clarksdale, Miss., beginning with a visit to the Delta Blues Museum where guests can learn the prehistory and history of the blues. Other August Wilson Celebration events include lectures, stage readings and discussions, and a finale party with jazz and blues vocalist Joyce Cobb.

Rhodes College last year announced the establishment of The Mike Curb Institute for Music to foster awareness and understanding of Southern musical traditions. The Mike Curb Family Foundation and Rhodes envisioned partnerships with local institutions already doing work consistent with the charge of the Institute.

“The August Wilson Celebration reinforces a primary objective of the Curb Institute of finding meaningful ways to connect Rhodes students and faculty with the broader Memphis community while studying the impact of music on its local culture, history and economy,” says Rhodes President William E. Troutt.

Wilson received the Pulitzer Prize for “The Piano Lesson” and “Fences,” and his literary legacy includes a 10-play cycle chronicling the heritage and experience of African Americans in the 20th century, decade-by-decade. The cycle begins with “Gem of the Ocean” set in the 1900s and ends with “Radio Golf” set in the 1990s. 

Wilson died in 2005, but his work continues to be celebrated in the areas of black culture, American literature, music and Broadway theatre.

See complete listing of August Wilson Celebration events:

  • Sept. 19, 8 pm: “Goodnight Mr. Wilson,” one-man performance by Charles S. Dutton at Rhodes’ McCallum Ballroom. Reception following (free but seating by ticket, 901-843-3834)
  • Sept. 20, 6 pm: Keynote address by Dr. Sandra Shannon of Howard University at The University of Memphis’ Rose Theatre, entertainment lobby
  • Sept. 20, 8 pm: “The August Wilson Song Book,” a musical tribute performed by Hattiloo Theatre Company in The University of Memphis Lab Theatre
  • Sept. 21, 10 am: “Location, Regionalism and The Delta’s Influence on August Wilson’s Characters,” brief pre-tour lecture at McCoy Theatre
  • Sept. 21, 11 am:  Bus Tour to Clarksdale, Mississippi from McCoy Theatre ($40, reservations required, 901-843-3834)
  • Sept. 21, 7 pm: “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,” a staged reading and discussion at Art Village Gallery, 412 South Main; reception following
  • Sept. 22, 10 am: Continental Breakfast and discussion of Romare Bearden’s art at McCoy Theatre; Dr. David McCarthy of Rhodes, facilitator
  • Sept. 22, 11 am: “August Wilson’s Women,” lectures by Dr. Ladrica Menson-Furr  (University of Memphis) and Dr. Yolanda Williams Page (University of Arkansas at Little Rock) at McCoy Theatre; lunch following
  • Sept. 22, 2 pm: “Music and August Wilson” presented by vocalist Joyce Cobb at McCoy Theatre
  • Sept. 22, 8 pm: “The August Wilson Song Book,” a musical tribute at Hattiloo Theatre, 656 Marshall (901-525-0009 for ticket information)
  • Sept. 22, 10 pm: August Wilson Celebration: Finale Party with jazz and blues vocalist Joyce Cobb at Zoras, adjacent to Hattiloo Theatre

Those with specific inquiries can contact 901-843-3834 or  mccoy@rhodes.edu

More about playwright August Wilson