WQED receives federal grant for August Wilson documentary to air on PBS' 'American Masters'
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Pittsburgh-based WQED Multimedia has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to support production of a documentary on the life and work of Hill District native and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson.
The $704,000 grant is a major piece of the puzzle in the completion of the project, which has been in the works since Mr. Wilson died in 2005 from liver cancer at 60.
"Right at that time we started talking about how important it would be for WQED -- not any other public television station, not any other entity -- to capture the significance of what August Wilson meant, not only to Pittsburgh but also to the world," said Darryl Ford Williams, co-executive producer of the documentary and vice president of content for WQED Multimedia.
The 90-minute high-definition documentary, "August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand," will be a co-production of WQED and the PBS series "American Masters." The plan is to air the show in late 2014.
The full budget for the project is $1.6 million. WQED and American Masters will split the responsibility for raising the money not covered by the grant, said Ms. Williams.
The late playwright wrote the Pittsburgh Cycle of 10 plays, set mostly in the Hill District, about the African-American experience. For several decades starting in the 1980s, he was the most-produced playwright on Broadway and in regional theaters.
The documentary, which will air nationally, will shine a spotlight on Pittsburgh, said Ms. Williams. "People from all over the country, all over the world, will be seeing a representation of life and culture in Pittsburgh," she said. "That is an incredible opportunity."
The documentary will include re-enactments and some readings by noted actors -- the names of whom Ms. Williams wasn't ready to share. It will also likely involve filming in Pittsburgh, New York and California, she said.
Susan Lacy, creator and executive producer of "American Masters" on PBS, also will be executive producing the documentary. Writer Stephen Stept is an award-winning filmmaker who has been a principal in three major TV projects funded by NEH, including co-writer with Ms. Lacy on "Judy Garland: By Myself." Emmy-winning producer and director Sam Pollard has worked on projects ranging from "Eyes on the Prize II" to Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever" to the Academy Award-nominated documentary "Four Little Girls."
"This documentary will be the definitive story of the most prolific playwright of the last half of the 20th century," said Deborah L. Acklin, president and CEO of WQED.
First Published August 3, 2012 11:38 am