Radio reporter and podcast producer Jon Kalish is based in Manhattan and has been a freelance contributor to WNYC since 1980. For links to radio docs, podcasts and stories by Jon Kalish, visit his Tumblr page here.
New York, NY –
Last night Broadway's Virginia Theater was named after playwright August Wilson, who passed away two weeks ago at the age of 60. It is the first theater on the Great White Way to be named after an African-American. Jon Kalish reports.
REPORTER: The rededication ceremony included performances from Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and "Seven Guitars". After a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside, family, friends and colleagues cheered as the marquee of the August Wilson Theater lit up on West 52nd Street, which had been closed to traffic.
REPORTER: Next season "Radio Golf," the last in Wilson's cycle of ten plays about African-American life in the 20th Century, will open at this house. Actor Charles Dutton, who met Wilson in 1987 when he performed in Wilson's "The Piano Lesson," praised two theater executives for supporting Wilson's work and naming their theater after him.
DUTTON: I was telling Rocco Landesman and Jack Vertell that you have to have courage to make history. And they had it. So to dedicate this theater to him immortalizes the man like his plays will be immortalized in America, not just black America, but America finally has a cannon of work.
REPORTER: Wilson's eldest daughter, Sakina Ansari, read a statement the playwright had scripted for the occassion. Wilson's wife, Costanza Romero, recalled the day Wilson had learned that the theater would be named in his honor.
ROMERO: I came downstairs and he was on the porch and he said, "I have good news." And I said, "What is it?" I thought it had soemthing to do with his illness. And he said, "No, no. It's not that. But they're naming a theater after me on Broadway." And his eyes were so lit up and his face had a big, big smile. And I was so grateful that it was such a momentous, happy, happy time for him.
REPORTER: In addition to the upcoming Broadway debut of "Radio Golf," off-Broadway's Signature Theater will be dedicated to Wilson's works next season. For WNYC, I'm Jon Kalish.