Saturday, October 08, 2005

More On Wilson

One of the best things about being in the entertainment business is the wonderful people that you get to meet along the way. Insightful directors, clever scenic artists, and brilliant writers are at the top of my list of people to meet. If you're one of the extraordinarily blessed, you may even get to work with them.

I was never fortunate enough to work with the great August Wilson (1945-2005). Although, I did appear as Sylvester, Ma's stuttering nephew and pet, in a Peoria production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom back in 1991.

I met Mr. Wilson. Twice. The first time was in 1989. I'm guessing that date. It could be early 1990. I was in college and my professor gave a group of us tickets to see the opening of The Piano Lesson at the Goodman in Chicago. We all jumped in my car and sped the 2 1/2 to 3 hour drive from Peoria to Chicago. We arrived at the the Goodman's old space next to the Art Institute just before curtain. We also arrived just as Mr. Wilson arrived. He quietly walked towards the auditorium doors. I quickly landed on him like a piece of lint to an afro. I shook his hands more times than was socially acceptable but he smiled and looked me straight in the eyes. He listened to me ramble about what a great honor it was to meet him and a what an inspiration he was to me as a theatre artist and on. And on. And on. He thanked me for my kind words and entered the theatre because the show was about to begin. Even though my seat was pretty far back, I had come as near to Nirvana as I had ever been in the theatre.

The second meeting was in Seattle. I was touring in Showboat. We were scheduled to do six weeks at The Paramount. We lived across the street at Tower 801. This would have been August/September 1997. The movie Soul Food was opening and I wanted to take in a matinee at a small mall. I had developed a movie habit that it stills controls me. I still drank coffee then so after I purchased my ticket I went to buy coffee at a shop. I noticed a familiar face sitting at a table as I approached the shop. It was indeed Mr. Wilson having a beverage and reading a paper. He was living there. I was older and more economical in my dialogue this time around. I told him that I hoped to work with him someday but I realize that day will never come.

Godspeed Mr. Wilson.

Special note: I actually saw Mr. Wilson one other time. It was outside the new Goodman Theatre around 2000. King Hedley II was at the new Goodman Theatre and I had a "survival job" as a receptionist at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. I saw Mr. Wilson standing outside the theatre talking to the director. I didn't want to interrupt so I didn't say anything. At the time, I remember I wanted to ask him for his address so I could send him a copy of one of my plays. If I could turn back time, I would have never wasted that moment. I would have sent him that play.

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