A number of plays of renowned playwright August Wilson will be crafted by Denzel Washington to appear on HBO over the next decade. At least that is what Washington said in an interview lately.
I’m not familiar with the interviewer, Todd “The Notorious Ph.D.” Boyd, but do know the work of both Washington and Wilson. Denzel has worked out an arrangement with the estate of the late playwright to craft, produce, direct and act in the unique 10-play compendium called The Pittsburgh Cycle. Washington told those in attendance –
“I’m directing, producing — and acting in one— and I’m executive producing the other nine. I’m really excited about that — that [the estate] would put that in my hands and trust me. That’s good enough for me. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle aka the Century Cycle is set during a different decade of the 1900s and aims to describe the black experience. At follows is a look at each of them.
- “Gem of the Ocean” is set in 1904 and shows Aunt Ester taking in two boarders and befriends and “heals” them.
- “Joe Turner’s Come & Gone” is set in 1911 with former slaves making a life for themselves in Pittsburgh.
- “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is set in 1927 and is about the Blues entertainer. You are already familiar with her if you saw Monique’s portrayal of her in HBO Films’ BESSIE.
- “The Piano Lesson” is set in 1937 and is about a black family enduring the Depression with their last family heirloom – the piano.
- “Seven Guitars” is set in 1948 and observes post-war poverty as a young man fights for his place in the world and a record deal.
- “Fences” is set in the 1950’s and offers a family man and former Negro League baseball player now a bitter garbage man.
- “Two Trains Running” is set in 1969 and illustrates the civil unrest of the day.
- “Jitney” is set in 1977 with fellows making a living in a Hill District cab company.
- “King Hedley II” is set in 1985 and gives us an ex-con selling stolen appliances to open a video store.
- “Radio Golf” is set in 1997 and finds an Ivy League educated man running as the first black mayor of the Steel City.
Again, Denzel’s production company plans to produce one film a year for the next ten years and it makes sense to me that they would present them in chronological order. It sounds like a big undertaking actually so, this one joins the concept of David Milch bringing William Faulkner’s works to HBO which hasn’t happened yet.
We file this project under the ‘believe-it-when-we-see-it’ category but Denzel Washington is the man who could pull it off. So perhaps we will see “Gem of the Ocean” in 2017 with the rest to follow?