Curtain up: Respected theater figure has a fitting new role

Written by Susan Mannella on .

Just as many plays have a second act, Mark Clayton Southers, the recently named artistic director for theater initiatives at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, also has a second act. It took a dramatic career move to bring it about, though.

Last month, after nearly two decades at U.S. Steel's Irvin Plant, Mr. Southers, 48, quit his job as a heavy equipment operator. He was a finalist for a job as the artistic director of a Fort Worth, Texas-based theater company.

When that job fell through, Mr. Southers assumed he would simply have more time than originally planned to figure out his next move. He was committed to pursuing his calling as a playwright and director with the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, the regional company he founded.

That's when the August Wilson Center reached out to Mr. Southers with the offer of a newly created position.

The veteran playwright plans to introduce an August Wilson Theater Festival and a new Griot Ensemble Theater that will feature the work of other playwrights. Expect theater management fellowships and residencies under Mr. Souther, as well.

One of the ironies of an institution named after the Pittsburgh native who became one of the nation's most acclaimed playwrights is that it lacked a robust theater program. Mr. Souther's appointment addresses this oversight in a way that honors the legacy of the late August Wilson.

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