Richard E Wesley

Associate Professor

Associate Professor Richard E. Wesley

Richard Wesley was born in Newark, New Jersey and graduated from Howard University. He studied Playwriting under the tutelage of Owen Dodson and Ted Shine. A member of the New Lafayette Theater from 1970 through 1973, he served as Managing Editor of its Black Theater magazine.
He was awarded a Drama Desk Award for his 1971 stage play, THE BLACK TERROR. His 1978 play, THE MIGHTY GENTS, appeared on Broadway, after premiering off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theater Club under its original title, “The Last Street Play.”
His 1989 play, THE TALENTED TENTH, also at the Manhattan Theater Club, brought him his fourth AUDELCO Award for outstanding play. In 2013, he wrote the libretto for an opera, PAPA DOC, for the Trilogy Opera Company, with music composed by Dorothy Rudd Moore, and adapted from an essay by Edwidge Danticat. Other librettos for Trilogy Opera include: FIVE, with music composed by Anthony Davis; KENYATTA, with music composed by Trent Johnson; W.E.B. and BOOKER T, Julius Williams, composer and SCOTT, GARNER, GRAY, SAYS: JIMMY BALDWIN, Dwayne Fulton, composer.
In June 2019, a new version of FIVE, now known as, THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE, premiered at the Long Beach Opera, in San Pedro, California.
Mr. Wesley’s play, AUTUMN, received its premiere at the Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick, New Jersey in April of 2015. The play received its New York premiere at the Billie Holiday Theater in 2016, a production that subsequently won six Audelco Awards, including Dramatic Production of the Year.
Mr. Wesley has shared two NAACP Image “Best Picture” Awards for the motion pictures, UPTOWN SATURDAY NIGHT and LET’S DO IT AGAIN, both of which starred Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. Among his other motion pictures: NATIVE SON (1984) and FAST FORWARD (1985).
Mr. Wesley has authored scripts for television movies: THE HOUSE OF DIES DREAR (PBS, 1984), MURDER WITHOUT MOTIVE (NBC, 1992), MANDELA and DE KLERK (Showtime, 1997), and co-wrote the scripts for BOJANGLES (Showtime, 2002) and DEACONS FOR DEFENSE (Showtime, 2003), a recipient of “Best Teleplay” award from the Foundation for the Advancement of African Americans in Film (FAAAF) . He has also written episodes for the series FALLEN ANGELS (Showtime, 1996), ONE HUNDRED CENTER STREET (A&E Cable Networks, 2000 and 2001) and MIRACLE’S BOYS (2005).
In 2019, “IT’S ALWAYS LOUD IN THE BALCONY: From Harlem to Hollywood and Back,” Mr. Wesley’s personal history of the Black Theater Movement across the last fifty years, was published by Applause Books.
In 2020, The Central Park Five, Anthony Davis’ opera, for which Mr. Wesley wrote the libretto, was the recipient of The Pulitzer Prize in music.
Among other commendations Mr. Wesley has received are: 1993 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Organization of Black Screenwriters, The 2013 August Wilson Playwriting Award from the National Black Theater Festival, The 2015 Castillo Award for Outstanding Writing in Political Theater, The 2017 Pioneer Award from the National Black Theater of New York, The 2018 Distinguished Playwriting