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The Dartmouth
June 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

August Wilson to visit College in '98

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson will visit the College as a Montgomery Fellow for the entire Winter term in 1998.

Wilson, author of "Fences," "The Piano Lesson" and the recent "Seven Guitars," is the first full-term Montgomery Fellow since Wilma Mankiller visited the College in the winter of 1996.

The Montgomery Endowment, initiated in 1978 by Kenneth Montgomery '25, invites prominent individuals from various disciplines to come to the College to share their experiences in lectures or classes.

Montgomery Endowment Director Barbara Gerstner said the College was able to lure Wilson here through Drama Professor Victor Walker. "We were very lucky that he is a personal friend with Victor Walker and he encouraged him to accept our invitation," Gerstner said.

Walker said he first met Wilson in Detroit three or four years ago, when he interviewed Wilson for a book he was writing.

The two have been in close contact since last June, when Wilson delivered a controversial keynote address to the Theater Communications Group titled "The Ground on Which I Stand," in which he called for the creation of a separate theater where Blacks do not have to work under the conventions of the predominantly white theater.

Walker said the idea to bring Wilson to Dartmouth grew out of conversations with Theater Director Mara Sabinson and former African and Afro-American Studies Chair Keith Walker.

Victor Walker said the three thought it would be a good idea to offer a course on Wilson and later decided to stage one of his plays. After that, Victor Walker said, inviting Wilson seemed logical.

Wilson, who taught for six years at Yale University, was a little reluctant to spend his winter in Hanover, Victor Walker said. But Wilson was convinced to come since his visit would coincide with Black History Month and the Black Theater Summit to be held at Dartmouth.

Victor Walker said Wilson's wife, who is expecting a baby in September, also helped convince him to come.

In conjunction with Wilson's visit, the Drama Department will produce Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," which Clinton Turner Davis will direct.

Wilson will teach an upper level play writing course, and Victor Walker will run a course on Wilson's work, which he hopes "will attract many, many, many students."

Victor Walker said the course will feature guest lectures by Wilson, English Professors Bill Cook, Martin Favor, Donald Pease and Ivy Schweitzer and Paul Carter Harris, an "eminent scholar from Columbia College in Chicago."

Harris will also participate in the Black Theater Summit, Victor Walker said.

The Summit will feature 35 to 40 of the nation's most important black theater contributors, Victor Walker said, including actor Charles S. Dutton of television's "ROC" and films such as "Get on the Bus" and "Alien 3" and director George C. Wolfe, the only black director to win back-to-back Tony Awards.

Gerstner said two Montgomery Fellows are currently lined up for this summer -- John Fletcher, a professor of bio-medical ethics at the University of Virginia, and Murray Gell-Mann, a Nobel Prize winning physicist and the author of "The Quark and the Jaguar."

Fletcher will be at the College the week of July 7 and will work closely with the College's Ethics Institute, Gerstner said.

Gell-Mann, who is a director of the MacArthur Foundation and a co-chair of the Science Board at the Santa Fe Institute, will be here from July 20 to August 3.

There were no Montgomery fellows this term.