August Wilson Comes Alive in Oakland

Wilson’s one-man show How I Learned What I Learned, originally performed by the playwright himself, is a delightful autobiographical journey through lively anecdotes of his life as a young black man in Pittsburgh.


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Photo courtesy Ubuntu Theater Project

The late playwright August Wilson’s body of work is already an astounding accomplishment. His mammoth 10-play American Century cycle depicts life in the predominately African-American Hill District of Pittsburgh in each decade of the 20th century, many of those plays already revered as American theater classics. But perhaps one of Wilson’s most enjoyable works isn’t part of that cycle at all.

Wilson’s one-man show How I Learned What I Learned, originally performed by the playwright himself, is a delightful autobiographical journey through lively anecdotes of his life as a young black man in Pittsburgh. His early stirrings as an artist are in there, too, but this is less about writing per se than about the formative life experiences he would later draw upon in his work.

The show’s Bay Area premiere is a rare coproduction between three local theater companies. Oakland’s Ubuntu Theater Project brings it to Mills College after a Mill Valley run at Marin Theatre Company and a San Francisco stint with Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. Having performed in several Wilson works in his day (and met the playwright as well), former longtime American Conservatory Theater core company member and onetime LHT artistic director Steven Anthony Jones truly makes the role of Wilson his own, making it feel as if these are just his own experiences he’s relating. Fellow Bay Area theater treasure Margo Hall directs.

How I Learned What I Learned, April 30-May 5, 7 p.m., Tue.-Sun., 2 p.m. Sun., $15-$45, Rothwell Center Theater, Mills College, Post Road, Oakland, UbuntuTheaterProject.com.

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