August Wilson: The Writer’s Landscape: The first-ever exhibition dedicated to the life and works of August Wilson is now open! Learn More

King Hedley II

Broadway Debut
May 1, 2001
Virginia Theater (now the August Wilson Theater)

King Hedley II, set in the backyards of neighboring row houses, follows the residents of a scarred Pittsburgh community in 1985. King Hedley II continues the story arc of the characters of Seven Guitars, one generation later.

In the afterword of King Hedley II, Wilson proclaims that “Aunt Ester has emerged for me as the most significant persona of the cycle… The wisdom and tradition she embodies are valuable tools for reconstruction of [her children’s] personality and for dealing with society in which the contradictions, over the decades, have grown more fierce, and for exposing all the places it is lacking in virtue.” It is no small coincidence, then, that King Hedley II opens with the death of the 366year-old Aunt Ester from a broken heart. The metaphorical weight of her death sets the stage for arguably the darkest play of the American Century Cycle. Director Marion McClinton states that throughout the play King declares “war on a society that refuses to acknowledge his existence and humanity.” The war is a violent and chaotic one, and through it, each character searches for their own code and their own God.  

Did you Know?

King Hedley II was a finalist for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize.

Viola Davis played Tonya in the 2001 Broadway Production and won a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play.

1621 Bedford Avenue, the last residence of Wilson’s mother, was the inspiration for the setting of King Hedley II (Glasco and Rawson, August Wilson: Pittsburgh Places in His Life and Plays).


In His Own Words

God got a plan. That medicine can’t go against God. God do what he want to do. He don’t have to ask nobody nothing.” Stool Pigeon, Act I, Scene II

August Wilson:
A Writers Landscape

The August Wilson African American Cultural Center, one of the largest cultural organizations in the country focused exclusively on the African American experience and the arts of the African diaspora, will create The Writer’s Landscape, the first-ever exhibition dedicated to the life and works of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. Opening in late 2020, the 1,800 square foot permanent exhibition will explore the people and places of Pittsburgh, where Wilson was born and raised, and which had a profound impact on shaping his worldview and inspiring his unprecedented 10-play American Century Cycle.

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