‘Giving Voice’: Playwright August Wilson resonates with high school drama students

August Wilson is considered among the greatest American playwrights. A new Netflix documentary looks at his work through the eyes of high school students. Photo by August Wilson Estate/Netflix.

August Wilson is considered among the greatest American playwrights. A film adaptation of his play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is out this week, starring Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in his final role.

Wilson is best known for the family drama “Fences,” which won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award when it was released in the 1980s. In 2017, Viola Davis won an Oscar for her role as Troy’s wife Rose in the film adaptation.

Those two plays were part of a series of 10 that August Wilson called ”The Pittsburgh Chronicles,” which charted African American experiences through the 20th century. One play represented each decade.

Wilson died 20 years ago, but his work on the stage helped solidify the careers of Black actors like Viola Davis, as well as Laurence Fishburne and Courtney B. Vance.

A new Netflix documentary called “Giving Voice” looks at Wilson’s work through the eyes of the next generation of actors. Cameras follow high school students during the annual August Wilson Monologue Competition, where thousands compete for a shot on Broadway.


(L to R): Viola Davis (Rose), Chris Chalk (Cory), Denzel Washington (Troy Maxson) in a performance of “Fences.” Credit: August Wilson Estate/Netflix. 


Gerardo Navarro attending the August Wilson Monologue Competition in New York, NY. Photo by Jonathon Narducci, courtesy of Netflix.
Credits

Guests:
Mike Jackson - Executive Producer of “Giving Voice”, Gerardo Navarro - featured in “Giving Voice” and drama student at Carnegie Mellon

Host:
Madeleine Brand

Producers:
Sarah Sweeney, Angie Perrin, Michell Eloy, Amy Ta, Rosalie Atkinson, Brian Hardzinski, Bennett Purser