Scribe succumbs to liver cancer at 60

Pulitzer- and Tony-winning playwright August Wilson, whose epic 10-play cycle chronicled the black experience in 20th-century America, died Sunday of liver cancer at Swedish Hospital in Seattle. He was 60.

The playwright disclosed in late August that his illness was inoperable and he had only a few months to live at most.

Scribe’s decade-by-decade chronicle of African-American life in the 20th century earned him a rep as a literary giant of American theater. Among the 10 plays were “Fences,” which ran on Broadway in 1987 and won the Pulitzer and Tony, and three years later “The Piano Lesson” earned him his second Pulitzer.

In May, Wilson completed the Pittsburgh cycle with the premiere of “Radio Golf” at Yale Rep. The play went on to the Mark Taper Forum this summer, and another production is skedded at Baltimore’s CenterStage in March.

Most of the plays in the Pittsburgh cycle take place in the Hill District, the slum community where Wilson was born in 1945. He dropped out of high school in 1960, outraged by a teacher’s accusation of plagiarism, and educated himself at his local library. Later, he was awarded the only high school diploma issued by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

Gotham’s Signature Theater, which devotes an entire season to a single playwright, has skedded a Wilson tribute for 2006-7, including a series of readings of all 10 plays of Wilson’s Pittsburgh cycle in chronological order. Later this month, Broadway theater the Virginia will be renamed for him.

He is survived by wife Constanza Romero, a costume designer, and two daughters, Azula Carmen and, from a previous marriage, Sakina Ansari.

(The Associated Press and Frank Rizzo contributed to this report.)

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