In Pittsburgh, ‘Fences’ and August Wilson’s Hill District

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Fans of “Fences” may be disappointed that the film won just one of its four Oscar nominations. But a pilgrimage to playwright August Wilson’s hometown, Pittsburgh, might offer some consolation.

“Fences” is one of 10 plays that Wilson wrote chronicling African-American life. Nine of the plays are set in Pittsburgh and each play depicts a different decade. The city’s Hill District, where Wilson grew up, offers a rich map of places connected to him.

“I left Pittsburgh but Pittsburgh never left me,” he once said. “I have a fierce affection for the Hill District and the people who raised me, who have sanctioned my life and ultimately provided it with meaning.”

Denzel Washington, who directed “Fences,” filmed the movie in Pittsburgh and plans to film other Wilson plays. Washington, who portrayed “Fences” protagonist Troy Maxson, didn’t win the Oscar for best actor. But co-star Viola Davis won best supporting actress for a dignified portrayal of Troy’s wife Rose.

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“Here’s to August Wilson who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people,” Davis said in accepting the Oscar on Sunday night.

Wilson lived with his mother Daisy and six siblings at 1727 Bedford Ave. from his birth in 1945 until 1958. Their two-room, cold-water flat was upstairs and around the back from a grocery store, Bella’s Market. In “Fences,” Troy says he’d rather shop at Bella’s than at a supermarket because the folks there treated him right. The building is now called the August Wilson House . It’s under renovation and expected to open in April 2018, according to Paul Ellis, the project’s executive director and Wilson’s nephew. Ellis’ mother Freda was Wilson’s sister.

Wilson’s play “Seven Guitars” is set in the building’s backyard. Photos from a production staged there last year can be seen in the home’s rear…

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