August Wilson and Beyond
In this Ben Franklin Seminar, students will read Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright August Wilson's 20th Century Cycle: ten plays that form an iconic picture of African American traumas, triumphs, and traditions through the decades, told through the lens of Pittsburgh's Hill District neighborhood. In addition to Wilson’s plays, other readings include supporting material on Wilson's work and African American theatre, along with the works of contemporary playwrights whom Wilson has influenced (such as Suzan-Lori Parks and Tarell Alvin McCraney). The readings will be contextualized through materials that shed light on Penn's relationship with West Philadelphia. In this Academically Based Community Service (ABCS) course, students will have the opportunity to enhance their understanding of the plays, and the history and culture that shaped them, by forming meaningful relationships with West Philadelphia residents, through our partnership with the West Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. Wilson's plays provide the bridge between the two groups. In addition to a discussion of a Wilson play bringing students and community members together at mid-semester, the course culminates with students writing an original theatre piece inspired by the readings and relationships, which they will share during an end-of-semester performance.