11/19/2008 5:32:00 PM August Wilson Way dedicated to honor playwright
A portal to August Wilson Way at the Seattle Center was unveiled Nov. 7 with the help of (from left) Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams, designer Mindy Cameron, Mayor Greg Nickels, the late playwright’s widow, Constanza Romero and their daughter, Azula Wilson.
By Russ Zabel
A decorated door leading to August Wilson Way was unveiled last week at the Seattle Center to honor the late Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Capitol Hill resident.
Designed by Mindy Cameron of Lehman Cameron Studio, the portal features a photo of Wilson, quotes from his plays and biographical information about a man who spent much of his time writing plays in cafés such as the Victrola on Capitol Hill and the Mecca in Lower Queen Anne.
The portal is only the beginning, Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams said in the Seattle Repertory Theatre's lobby before the unveiling ceremony took place outside during a break in the weather.
Eventually, he said, August Wilson Way will stretch clear across the Seattle Center along West Republican Street from the portal at Warren Avenue North to Fifth Avenue North, where the real beginnings of Wilson's 10-play Century Cycle will be revealed.
Connecting to Fifth Avenue North will have to be part the Seattle Center's Century 21 plan to demolish Memorial Stadium, said center spokeswoman Deborah Daoust.
Once that's done, however, Cameron's concept plan for the project calls for a cobblestone walkway to curl up into a wave shape that is crashing into the huge timbers of a wrecked slave ship. The contents of the ship - including the African-American characters from Wilson's plays - will be spread about in the form of frozen stories made of durable materials.
There's more, according to a press release. Among the features are a building that could hold a café or bookstore, street furniture, passages from Wilson's plays set in bronze plates along the road, and street signs and lamps lined up along the way.
The portal was paid for with a grant from the Safeco Insurance Foundation, which former Seattle Center Director Virginia Anderson heads up, and Nellams thanked her for the help. He also thanked Wilson's widow, Constanza Romero, and the Seattle Repertory Theater, which made sure Wilson's works were performed here, Nellams said.
Nellams, who is also African American, also related that someone on the Seattle Center grounds last week said he must be very happy. It was an obvious reference to the presidential election, but Nellams said yes and then pointed to the Wilson portal as the reason.
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels also made a sly reference to the election. He said the portal dedication was a great day for several reasons. "One, we are rededicating Republican Street," the mayor said with special emphasis on "Republican."
The ceremony also acknowledged that Seattle is an innovative city where "incredibly and innovation people" such as Quincy Jones live, according to Nickels, who said he was proud the distinction.
The mayor also said he ran into Wilson several years ago at the Langston Hughes Center fundraiser. Wilson was just sitting at a table in a small simple room, and Nickels remembers thinking, "There is America's greatest living playwright," he said. "I will never forget that experience.
Wilson's widow, Constanza Romero, also spoke at the ceremony. She remembered moving to Seattle with her husband in late 1990 and renting an apartment.
The couple wondered if they'd done the right thing by moving here, she said, but the answer was revealed when they walked down to TS McHughes on Mercer Street. Someone shouted out "August," Romero remembered, and it was one of the mainstays of the Seattle Rep, she said.
The couple felt right at home after that, and it was a productive time for Wilson. "It was here that I watched August give breath to four of his 10 plays," Romero said. "He would be so very proud," she also said of her husband's reaction to having a walkway dedicated to his memory.
Pacific Publishing Inc. reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at email@example.com or 461-1308.