Essential Pittsburgh: An August Wilson Protégé on How He Learned What He Learned

Mar 6, 2015

August Wilson is well known for his 20th century cycle of works about the black experience in America. But now an additional play written shortly before Wilson’s death is debuting in Pittsburgh. Actor Eugene Lee and Director Todd Kreidler, Wilson’s friend and protégé, explain what “How I Learned What I Learned” reveals about the playwright’s life as a poet in the Hill District.

"His quality of mind is actually something that comes out in the show, and that's something Eugene really brings out. The way he can twist and turn. I always say that August was a blues man with a jazz mind." - Director Todd Kreidler

Also in this show, a look at how the USDA is taking a new approach to fighting hunger, and CMU students prepare to launch a Xombie into space.

Fighting Child Hunger (starts at 0:00)

Nearly 16 million households have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. In 2013, 1 in 7 Americans struggled with hunger. Reaching kids in high-poverty rural areas and helping people get back to work to earn enough to feed their families is a major focus of a new U.S.D.A. initiative announced this week by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

How I Learned What I Learned (starts at 9:30)

Both director Todd Kreidler and Eugene Lee--who plays August Wilson in the play--speak of trying to balance physically representing Wilson and letting the character come alive during the story.

"The storytelling is enhanced the less I move around," says Lee. "Less is more, more often than not. And I trust in the audience to fill it in."

Preparing for Space Exploration (starts at 38:15)

This spring, students from Carnegie Mellon University will travel to the Mojave Desert in California to test the "Xombie", a vertical take-off, vertical landing rocket. Xombie is funded by NASA and will be used to explore craters on the surface of the moon. Neal Bhasin is a senior at Carnegie Mellon and led the development team.

To leave a question or comment before or after the show dial 412-256-8783. More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.