Patti Hartigan to Write August Wilson Biography


The playwright August Wilson, at the Huntington Theater in Boston in 1995.

John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive, via Getty Images

Patti Hartigan, a former theater critic for the Boston Globe, has been signed to write the first major biography of August Wilson, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and one of the most significant voices in 20th-century American literature. 37 INK, an imprint at Atria Books, plans to publish the book, tentatively titled “August Wilson: The Kiln in Which He Was Fired,” in late 2019.

Ms. Hartigan will be working with the full cooperation of Wilson’s widow, Constanza Romero, and his estate, which Ms. Romero oversees.

Wilson, who died in 2005 at 60, is best known for his 10 plays (known as the “Century Cycle”) about African-American life in Pittsburgh, each set in a different decade of the 20th century. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for “Fences,” and again in 1990 for “The Piano Lesson.”

Wilson’s work, never far off the radar, has been especially prominent in recent months, with “Jitney” playing on Broadway and the film version of “Fences,” starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, earning four Oscar nominations.

In an essay in Spin magazine in 1990, Wilson wrote about his insistence that the film version of “Fences” have a black director. (It was first optioned in 1987.) Wilson wrote that the job “requires someone who shares the specifics of the culture of black Americans.”

Given that view, Ms. Hartigan, in a telephone interview, addressed the fact that she is white.

“I interviewed him many times about this subject, and I know how strongly he felt about it,” she said. “And I think my knowledge of his work and my experience with him over the years adds a depth to the biography that perhaps someone who isn’t immersed in theater wouldn’t bring to the project.”


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