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George C. Wolfe

Playwright and artistic director George C. Wolfe was born on September 23, 1954 in Frankfort, Kentucky. His mother, a teacher, was among the first African Americans to study library science through the University of Kentucky Extension Program. Wolfe’s mother became the principal at the private, all-black, Rosenwald Laboratory School, where Wolfe received his elementary education, and discovered an interest in staging and directing. As a teenager, Wolfe attended a summer theater workshop at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and began directing plays. He graduated from Frankfort High School in 1972, where he wrote for the literary journal. Wolfe attended Kentucky State University in Frankfort but, in 1973, transferred to Pomona College in Claremont, California, graduating in 1976 with his B.A. degree in theater.

Wolfe wrote and directed his first play, Up for Grabs, in 1975. In Up for Grabs, Wolfe debuted his sketch framing technique and the motif of passage through doors, which became common elements in his later works. The following year, he premiered Block Party. Wolfe completed a six-month postgraduate artist residency at Pomona College before meeting C. Bernard Jackson, who funded the first production of Wolfe’s Tribal Rites at the Inner City Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Wolfe staged several plays in Los Angeles before moving to New York in 1979, where he graduated with his M.F.A. degree in 1983 from New York University School of the Arts. He premiered Paradise! in 1985, and The Colored Museum in 1986, which garnered Wolfe national attention, as well as the attention of New York Shakespeare Festival founder Joseph Papp. Following the premiere of Spunk (1989), Papp named Wolfe a resident director in 1990. Wolfe won his first Obie award for Spunk’s New York production that same year. In 1992, Wolfe made his Broadway debut with Jelly’s Last Jam at the Virginia Theatre, and achieved widespread recognition when he directed the Broadway premiere of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America in 1993. He was named producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival that year and went on to produce ten seasons. Wolfe also directed the 1997 world premiere of Amistad at the Lyric Opera in Chicago, Illinois. He staged Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed at the Music Box Theatre in New York City in 2016.

In 1975, Wolfe won the Pacific Southern Regional Award for playwriting at the American College Theater Festival for Up for Grabs. The following year, he premiered Block Party, receiving the Pacific Southern Regional Award for playwriting a second year in a row.

George C. Wolfe was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 9, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.127

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/9/2016

Last Name

Wolfe

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

C.

Organizations
Schools

Rosenwald Laboratory School

Frankfort High School

Kentucky State University

Pomona College

New York University Tisch School of the Arts

First Name

George

Birth City, State, Country

Frankfort

HM ID

WOL01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Kentucky

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Amazing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

9/23/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Moqueca

Short Description

Playwright and artistic director George C. Wolfe (1954 - ) was resident director and, later, producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival. He is known for directing Broadway productions of Jelly’s Last Jam, and Angels in America.

Employment

Pomona College

Inner City Cultural Center

Various

City College of New York

Margo Lion

Public Theater of New York

New York Shakespeare Festival/Joseph Papp Public Theatre

Favorite Color

Red

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George C. Wolfe's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George C. Wolfe lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George C. Wolfe describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George C. Wolfe describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George C. Wolfe talks about his paternal great-grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George C. Wolfe describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George C. Wolfe describes his grandparents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George C. Wolfe describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - George C. Wolfe remembers his neighbors in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - George C. Wolfe describes the assertive personalities of his mother and maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - George C. Wolfe recalls his neighborhood in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George C. Wolfe talks about his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George C. Wolfe remembers his early interest in theater

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George C. Wolfe describes his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George C. Wolfe talks about his personality as a young child

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George C. Wolfe remembers Frankfort High School in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - George C. Wolfe describes First Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - George C. Wolfe recalls his decision to attend Pomona College in Claremont, California

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - George C. Wolfe remembers his start at Pomona College

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

5$2

DATitle
George C. Wolfe talks about his paternal great-grandfather
George C. Wolfe remembers his early interest in theater
Transcript
Let's talk about, (audio disturbance) give your father and his year of birth and what you know about him?$$Oh my god, I don't--oh my god, I don't know what (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) That's okay, don't worry, you don't have to worry.$$Yeah, I can figure out my father--$$But, but your middle name is--$$Costello, which is his name, and, and his father's name was George, so I'm named after my, my grandfather, George Wolfe. George, what's very interesting, so my father's name is Costello Wolfe, he had a twin sister named Estella [Estella Wolfe] who, who was incredibly very fussy, very, very, very, very, very consuming personality and he and my--he, she, and my father fought all the time--they're twins. They just fought all the time. His, his sister--he has another sister, Florence [Florence Wolfe], who just turned ninety-eight and lives in St. Louis [Missouri] and rides the bus and he has another sister [Norma Wolfe] who's ninety-five who mows her own lawn in Providence, Kentucky and so they're like--it's so, it's really, really fascinating and their, their father, on, on, on and their father was a man named, was George Wolfe and George Wolfe's parents were named Sam Wolfe and Mary Wolfe. Mary Wolfe died when she was 106. She was--there's an article written about her 'cause she, it ended up--I believe she was living in Muncie, Indiana at the time, which is where they ended up, which is a fascinating story and she remembers as a slave serving Jefferson Davis and she also when you--she, there are stories of that her--and she was born into slavery as was Sam Wolfe and then George Wolfe had a brother named Sullivan Wolfe. Sullivan Wolfe in 1930, I believe he was thirty-eight years old was evidently incredibly smart, very charismatic and a leader. They lived in Providence, Kentucky, which was a coal mining area and so he tried to organize a union, a black and white mine--an integrated union. Some men knocked on his door on a Saturday at four A.M., told him to come with them and they were black and white men, interestingly enough, as the story goes, and he said, "I need to go put on my shoes," and they said, "You're not going anywhere," and when he turned to put on his shoes they gunned him down. Now the thing that's really--and this was in Providence, Kentucky. The thing that's really fascinating about this--well, one of the things--everything about it is fascinating, what's really fascinating is the paper the next day or whatever day, the next day the paper came out, it said, the headline was "Negro Leader Slain." The fact that they used Negro and the fact that they used leader is astonishing, is astonishing. His wife [Lillie Gray Wolfe] was watching from the window, she had a coal oil lamp--these are certain, very details that Florence in particular has told me and my father told some of this, this is a huge story and, and it was reported--so that happened like on a Saturday, the newspaper came out and I have a copy of it somewhere, the newspaper came out, there was never a trial, nothing ever came from it and that was that and his wife took her three children and left town. This is just an astonish- there's so many aspects of that story, I mean he could sing, he was so smart, he was just like this, this heroic figure and he was, and he was gunned down at the age of thirty-eight.$You do talk about even dissecting, you know, I think you talked about at the age of five was it? A show, was that, or did I read that right?$$Oh yes, yes, yeah.$$Yeah.$$I remember, yes, I remember very specific- yeah. So at Rosenwald school [Rosenwald Laboratory School, Frankfort, Kentucky], Rosenwald was a very--Rosenwald school, it was a very--the principal of the school was this woman named Minnie J. Hitch, who was very, very severe, but very smart and I realized in many respects was, was probably the first director, (laughter) first theater director I ever knew without knowing it and, and we would put on a Christmas play and at the end of the year we'd put on a school closing play, probably it was like maybe ninety people, mainly kids, maybe who were in eight grades at Rosenwald and we'd put on these enormous plays and she would always direct them and I--there was a part of my brain that was sort of exhilarated by that time. I mean I, as early as I can remember I was obsessed with theater, which is an odd thing because, I mean obsessed with it, very, very, I mean (audio disturbance) from the very, from the very beginning before I could remember it. I remember at one point I got--I was given for Christmas a, a showboat, a showboat that had little scenery pieces that you could put in there and I would just, and I was in heaven with this because there was a backdrop and there were legs and then there were middle ground and foreground, there was a whole stage there and it, it, which, which was, it, it was very, very interesting, so it's you know, I was obsessed, I was obsessed, I was obsessed with, with, with theater from the very beginning but at Rosenwald, she would put on these plays and, and, and, and I remember just--you, I, I remember studying them. I remember when I went, came to New York [New York] and I saw 'West Side Story' [Arthur Laurents] at the State Theater [New York State Theater; David H. Koch Theater], I remember s- I was studying it, I realized--(background noise) and a lot of times I would sit there and watch TV and I would sit on the ground and I was studying the rhythms.

Sanford T. Roach

Educator and basketball coach, Sanford T. Roach, was born in Frankfort, Kentucky. Roach graduated from Danville Bate High School in 1933 in Danville, Kentucky, where he was a basketball and football star and salutatorian of his class. In 1937, Roach earned his B.S. degree in natural sciences from Kentucky State University, where he was the captain of the basketball team, a track and field star, editor of the student newspaper, and a student council member. In 1955, Roach earned his M.A. degree in education from the University of Kentucky.

After graduating from college, Roach returned to his old high school to teach and coach basketball. Over the course of three years, Roach's coaching record was 98-24; in 1941 he gained notoriety for benching his five starting players the day of the district tournament for disobeying his curfew rule. Roach's strict sense of discipline on the court caught the attention of the principal of Lexington's Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, and he was soon hired as teacher and coach. Roach taught biology, physiology, and anatomy classes; by 1943 he had become head basketball coach. In his twenty-two years as head coach, Roach led Dunbar High to a 512-142 record.

In 1965, Roach's first wife, Mary, herself a basketball enthusiast, died unexpectedly. Shortly after, Roach retired from coaching. Between 1965 and 1966, Roach served as principal of George W. Carver Elementary School, becoming the first black principal of an integrated elementary school in Lexington. Between 1966 and 1975, Roach worked as an administrator at Lexington Junior High, and became the first black principal of a Fayette County secondary school. From 1975 to 1988, Roach worked as a minority recruiter and principal assistant for the state secretary of transportation, and from 1989 to 1995 he worked for Mayors Scotty Baseler and Pam Miller.

Roach received numerous awards and honors for his educational and coaching career. In 1974, Roach became the first African American board member of the University of Kentucky Athletic Association; in 1991, the new Paul Laurence Dunbar High School dedicated its S.T. Roach Sports Center in his honor. Roach was featured in the National High School Sports Hall of Fame; the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame; and the Kentucky State University Athletic Hall of Fame.

Roach passed away on September 2, 2010 at the age of 94.

Roach married Lettie in 1967, and had two children: Sandra Cole and Tom Roach.

Accession Number

A2002.225

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/10/2002

Last Name

Roach

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

T.

Organizations
Schools

Bate High School

Kentucky State University

University of Kentucky

Danville Bate High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Sanford

Birth City, State, Country

Frankfort

HM ID

ROA01

Favorite Season

Football, Basketball Season

State

Kentucky

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Kentucky

Birth Date

2/26/1916

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Lexington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Death Date

9/2/2010

Short Description

Elementary school principal, high school basketball coach, and high school principal Sanford T. Roach (1916 - 2010 ) coached Lexington's Dunbar High basketball team for twenty-two years, in addition to teaching and becoming the first African American principal of an integrated elementary school in Lexington, Kentucky.

Employment

Bate High School

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

George W. Carver Elementary School

Lexington Junior High School

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sanford Roach interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sanford Roach's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sanford Roach discusses his family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sanford Roach remembers his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sanford Roach recalls his childhood home, Danville, Kentucky

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sanford Roach recalls his childhood activities

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sanford Roach recalls his high school years

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sanford Roach remembers his days playing high school basketball

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sanford Roach recounts an injury suffered while playing basketball

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sanford Roach discusses the successes of his high school basketball team

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sanford Roach remembers his father's death

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sanford Roach shares stories about his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sanford Roach recalls a humorous story from his college years at Kentucky State College

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sanford Roach discusses his sports career at Kentucky State College

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sanford Roach remembers his first teaching position after college

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sanford Roach describes a rewarding professional experience

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sanford Roach remembers his mentors

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sanford Roach talks about his high school basketball coaching career during the 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sanford Roach describes working for the Merchant Marines in the Great Lakes

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sanford Roach recalls episodes in courtship

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sanford Roach reviews his career at Bate High School, Danville, Kentucky

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sanford Roach discusses basketball strategy

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sanford Roach describes the concerns of a high school basketball coach

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sanford Roach discusses the discipline of his basketball players at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sanford Roach recalls the travels of his Paul Laurence Dunbar High School basketball team

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sanford Roach remembers basketball stars he coached at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sanford Roach discusses issues in mentoring youth

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sanford Roach discusses the successes of his teams at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sanford Roach explains why he retired from coaching basketball

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sanford Roach discusses segregation in the University of Kentucky's basketball program

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sanford Roach describes an instance of racism at a University of Kentucky basketball game

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Sanford Roach explains how he helped Tubby Smith become head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sanford Roach discusses race relations in the University of Kentucky's athletic department

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sanford Roach considers his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sanford Roach describes his mother's response to his career in basketball

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sanford Roach describes how he'd like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Photo - Sanford Roach and wife with P. G. Peeples at a Magic Johnson reception

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Photo - Sanford Roach with Earvin 'Magic' Johnson and Jacques Wigginton

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - 'Transition Game' by Billy Reed

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Sanford Roach receiving a hall of fame award in Tampa, Florida