Planet Princeton

Mccarter Theater Center Begins New Year with Production of ‘The Piano Lesson’

A struggle between a family’s enduring legacy and its chance for a brighter future takes center stage in “The Piano Lesson”, one of the most critically-acclaimed productions in August Wilson’s landmark ten-play American Century Cycle.

Winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for drama, “The Piano Lesson” is set in 1930s Pittsburgh. The drama revolves around the Charles family and the fate of an ancient piano covered in carvings telling the story of their ancestors. To reclaim his family’s legacy, Boy Willie (Stephen Tyrone Williams) wishes to sell their priceless heirloom, but will his sister Berniece (Miriam A. Hyman) and the ghosts of their past stand in his way? An intense tale of a family at a crossroads, August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson” speaks deeply to the themes of memory, hope, and perserverance.

The cast includes Tony Award-winner Cleavant Derricks (Dreamgirls) as Wining Boy; Tony Award-nominee John Earl Jelks  (August Wilson’s Radio Golf) as Doaker; Marcus Callender (Straight Outta Compton) as Boy Willie; David Pegram (Broadway’s War Horse) as Lymon; Shannon Janee Antalan (Broadway’s Caroline, Or Change) as Grace; Owiso Odera (The Roundabout’s Overwhelming) as Avery; and Miriam A. Hyman as Berniece. Rounding out the cast as Maretha is Frances Brown, an eleven year-old Plainsboro native making her McCarter debut.

The production at McCarter, which runs from Jan. 8 through Feb. 7, marks Jade King Carroll’s directorial debut.

“Jade is an extraordinary talent who assisted Ruben Santiago Hudson on August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean at McCarter over 10 years ago. During her time here, Jade distinguished herself as a remarkable artist, and she went on to launch a vibrant career,” said McCarter Theatre Center Artistic Director Emily Mann. “One of her early triumphs, a production of Raisin in the Sun at Julliard, made a lasting impression on me, and is the best production of that play I have ever seen. She is known as an astute and sensitive director who elicits extraordinary performances from her actors.”

The design team  includes Helen Hayes and Obie award-winning scenic designer Neil Patel, costume design by Paul Tazewell (creator of the  looks for NBC’s The Wiz LIVE!), lighting design by Edward Pierce, (McCarter’s production of Tennessee Williams’ “Baby Doll”), and sound design by William Kirby (Sound Design). The production also includes original music by acclaimed jazz composer Baikida Carroll (father to director Jade King Carroll), with musical direction by Richard Harper.

August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson marks the fourth McCarter Theatre Center production of Wilson’s American Century Cycle plays, following Gem of the Ocean (2005), Radio Golf (2007) and Fences (2014).

McCarter Theatre, Berlind Rehearsal Room – Saturday, February 6, 2016
Immediately following the 3pm matinee of The Piano Lesson

On Saturday, Feb. 6, following the 3 p.m. matinee, McCarter will host a post-performance event that is intended to provide an opportunity for interested audience members to engage with one another in a conversation that focuses specifically on the story of “The Piano Lesson” as an articulation of the black American experience through which issues and themes pertaining to race, racism, and racial oppression and injustice can be shared and explored. The conversation will be facilitated in small groups by members of Not In Our Town Princeton.  Refreshments will be served.  Seating is limited and must be reserved. RSVP here.

For more information or to order tickets online, visit the McCarter Theatre Center website.

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Ilpapa16

    Saw “The Piano Lesson” last night at McCarter Theatre…extraordinary work by August Wilson…a force for cultural awareness and education.

  • I am excited to attend this play especially as I know one of the cast members, Owiso Odera.

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