Academy-Award-winning actor Denzel Washington will join Constanza Romero Wilson, August Wilson’s widow, to celebrate the opening of the August Wilson House on Saturday, Aug. 13.
Washington was last in Pittsburgh in 2018 when he attended a ceremony kicking off the project. He directed and starred in the filmed adaptation of August Wilson’s “Fences,” which was made in Pittsburgh.
The actor is not the only artist taking part in the celebration of the restoration of the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright’s Hill District childhood home at 1727 Bedford Ave.
Denise Turner, August Wilson House chief executive and board president, says the daylong event will be a show of gratitude for all of the project’s supporters. Young artists and some of the cast of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company’s “Jitney” — which is being showcased in the home’s backyard theater space — will perform music and monologues.
“This has been a years’ long dream in the making,” says Turner. “The Hill District deserves to be celebrated, revitalized and restored, and the celebration of native son August Wilson through our arts center is a perfect way to do it.”
The project was led by The Daisy Wilson Artist Community, a nonprofit named for Wilson’s mother. The playwright’s nephew Paul Ellis led efforts to save the home, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. Pfaffmann & Associates led the architectural design efforts, A. Martini & Co. was the contractor and the landscape architect was Hood Studio. The project received about $500,000 from the National Park Service $5 million from a fundraising effort led by Washington.
August Wilson died at age 60 in 2005.
The dwelling will not only feature artifacts of Wilson’s life (others can be seen at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center in Downtown Pittsburgh) but will house an arts center.
“August Wilson House’s mission is to celebrate the literacy and personal legacy of August Wilson through the engagement of the community and robust programming,” says Turner “Mr. Wilson saw a need to be filled in the necessary support of Black artists and the access that was needed to showcase their work and nurture their talent. Our programs are consistent with this movement.”
Programs at the house will include Your Story Matters, oral histories of Black families; Actors Talk August, an interview program with actors, playwrights, producers and directors influenced by Wilson; and August in the Schools, a collaboration with Pittsburgh Milliones University Prep 6-12.
The public can support the August Wilson House by purchasing a personalized brick that will be included in the house’s restoration through the Legacy Brick Campaign. The bricks range from $100 to $1,000.
“Mr. Wilson’s body of work elevated Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood and beyond,” Tuner says. “The Hill District was a source of inspiration for his epic dramatization of Black lives in the 20th century. His work remains a powerful part of the arts community through many different expressions and celebrations.”
- 1 p.m. – VIP Reception
- 1:30 p.m. – Welcome and remarks followed by the acknowledgment of the August Wilson Monologue Competition participants and the ribbon-cutting ceremony
- 3 p.m. – VIP house tours
- 5-8 p.m. – VIP Gala Celebration
- 8-11 p.m. – Community House Dance Party featuring performances, food and drink, dancing, and music by UNION, Big Phil, Selecta and Blakk Steel