A Note From the Playwright
In Sister Mary Eldephonse’s seventh grade class, history was at the top of my list of favorite subjects. I was intrigued merely by the record of events that had happened prior to 1957, as it would be years later before I would come to understand that the events had meanings that were connected and played out on a larger playing field of politics and culture.
In my reading of history, seldom if ever was the black experience in America given any historical weight, any meaning or purpose beyond that provided by a culture and politic that had enslaved and still in 1957 refused to accept the equality of its black citizens. As a black American artist, I have sought in all my work to restore the experience to a primary role, to create in essence a world in which the black American is the spiritual center, thus giving the events of history a different perspective. It is one thing to be the owner of a plantation, and another to be a slave. Both have equally valid perspectives. Both share the same physical space, and in the irreversible sweep of history, the same intertwining of national will and purpose, yet there can be no doubt that they lived very different lives. Despite my interest in history, I have always been more concerned with culture, and while my plays have an overall historical feel, their settings are fictions, and they are peopled with invented characters whose personal histories fit within the historical context in which they live.
I have tried to extract some measure of truth from their lives as they struggle to remain whole in the face of so many things that threaten to pull them asunder. I am not a historian. I happen to think that the content of my mother’s life—her myths, her superstitions, her prayers, the contents of her pantry, the smell of her kitchen, the song that escaped from her sometimes parched lips, her thoughtful repose and pregnant laughter—are all worthy of art.
Hence, Seven Guitars.
– August Wilson, 1995, Goodman Theatre