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The Mound Builders

The Mound Builders

Lanford Wilson


Lanford Wilson’s The Mound Builders is a play about time and human attempts to outrun it. All of the characters dig into the past—literally and figuratively—to find materials with which to build a future, and in their attempts they get in one another’s way and prevent one another from achieving their goals. (

Farrar, Strauss and Giroux

Lanford Wilson

Lanford Wilson, born on April 13th, 1937, was an important American playwright. His work, as described by The New York Times, was “earthy, realist, greatly admired and widely performed”. Wilson helped to advance the Off-Off-Broadway theatre movement with his earliest plays, which were first produced at the Caffe Cino beginning in 1964. He was one of the first playwrights to move from Off-Off-Broadway to Off-Broadway, then Broadway and beyond.

He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1980 and was elected in 2001 to the Theater Hall of Fame. In 2004, Wilson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award. He was nominated for three Tony Awards and has won a Drama Desk Award and five Obie Awards.

Wilson’s 1964 play “The Madness of Lady Bright” was his first major success and led to further works throughout the 1960s that expressed a variety of social and romantic themes. In 1969, he co-founded the Circle Repertory Company with theatre director Marshall W. Mason and wrote many plays for it in the 1970s. His 1973 play “The Hot l Baltimore” was the company’s first major success with both audiences and critics. The Off-Broadway production exceeded 1000 performances.

His play “Fifth of July” was first produced at Circle Repertory in 1978. He received a Tony Award nomination for its Broadway production, which opened in 1980. A prequel to “Fifth of July” called “Talley’s Folly” (premiered in 1979 at Circle Repertory) opened on Broadway before “Fifth of July” and won Wilson the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and his first Tony nomination. “Burn This”, from 1987, was another Broadway success.

Lanford Wilson also wrote the libretti for several operas, namely “Summer and Smoke” from 1971 and “This is the Rill Speaking” from 1992, which was adapted from one of his plays, as well as a praised translation of Anton Tchekhov’s “Three Sisters”.

He died of pneumonia on March 24th, 2011, at the age of 73.

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