For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
October 14, 2005 - My Favorite Playwright
By Katie Klossner, Community Relations Manager for Douglas County Libraries
In August, I was upset to learn that my favorite playwright, August Wilson, had been diagnosed with liver cancer. In October, I was devastated to learn that he passed away (October 2). Last year, I had the opportunity to direct one of his early plays, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, in Colorado Springs.
I was first introduced to August Wilson's plays in graduate school in 1991. At that time, I didn't know much about him, except that he was an extremely talented writer/poet, he wanted to complete a 'decology' of plays about black life (1 play set in each decade), and that I had to write several in-depth papers about Fences.
When next I met up with his plays it was 1994. I was acting with a small theatre company in upstate New York, but to pay the bills I worked for a community college that had programs in 2 different prisons. At the federal prison, I taught inmates everything they needed to know about theatre and acting (seemingly redundant, teaching inmates to act); and at the state prison, I was their 'Career and Academic Counselor.'
While at the state prison one day, an inmate came into my office and asked for help finding a play to read for his Introduction to Drama class. I asked what types of things he liked to read-and he said he didn't know, "I never read a play before." He was the silent type and I could tell he didn't want to open up and/or trust me. We finally figured out that he wanted to read something he could relate to, as a young, black man. I told him that any August Wilson play would work-but specifically Fences, because of the strong characters (and it would be the easiest play to find in the limited library service they had). He put in his library request and a couple of days later I brought the play to him (bringing library books into the prison was part of what I did). I thought I wouldn't see him again until he had to return the play 2 weeks later.
The very next day, this inmate was the first one lined up waiting to see me. I could see his eagerness and impatience as I walked down the hall to my office. I was surprised - given his quiet, 'don't care' type of attitude from the other day. The minute I got to the door, he wouldn't stop talking about the play. He started reading it the night before, with every intention to just read a little bit. However, he couldn't stop reading it. He said he became obsessed with the characters and wanted to know what was going to happen next. He couldn't believe the characters were so real to him - they jumped off the page. In the different characters, this young man immediately envisioned his grandfather, his mother, father, sister-and himself. But more importantly, in the text and situations - he saw his past AND respected it. We had such an intense discussion about this play, that he wanted to read it again and come back the next day to talk about it some more.
He did. He came back every day for 2 weeks.
Seeing what this one play did for this young man was enough motivation for me to start researching August Wilson and his plays further. Plus, I wanted to keep up on my discussions with this inmate!
I became obsessed myself. August Wilson became an essential part of my theatre and teaching career (as any of my past students can tell you). He is my absolute favorite playwright. I had the good fortune of meeting August Wilson in Denver in 1996, while serving on the symposium panel for the premiere of Seven Guitars at the Denver Center Theatre Company. And while I was able to see the premiere of Gem of the Ocean in Chicago a couple of years ago, I look forward to the Denver Center's production in 2006
It was somewhat poetic that Wilson's life ended after completing his epic decology; a task he devoted his life too. He was able to see the premiere of his last play,/ Radio Golf, at the Yale Repertory Theatre, but due to his ailing health - he wasn't able to see the actual run of the show at the Mark Taper Forum in LA this summer.
As a white woman, I can't even begin to truly understand black history, culture and struggles. Yet I have an immense respect for August Wilson's poetry, connection to the blues, rich characters, and the underlying messages he sends in every play. He once said he wanted his work to include the things he saw in Romare Beardon's art: spirit, texture, substance, grace and elegance. Not only do his writings encompass these things, but I believe August Wilson, as a person, as an artist/poet, and as a family man, shone brightly with these qualities.
He will be missed.
August Wilson's decology chronicles the black experience in the United States during the 20th century. All of the plays (except Ma Raineyís Black Bottom) are set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. All of the plays have run on Broadway, except Jitney and Radio Golf.
1900's Gem of the Ocean
1910's Joe Turner's Come and Gone
1920's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
1930's The Piano Lesson
1940's Seven Guitars
1960's Two Trains Running
1980's King Hedly II
1990's Radio Golf