Prop Piano in THE PIANO LESSON on Broadway to be Donated to The Smithsonian

The Piano Lesson is now playing at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre through January 29, 2023.

By: Jan. 24, 2023
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Prop Piano in THE PIANO LESSON on Broadway to be Donated to The Smithsonian
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The titular prop piano in the hit Broadway revival of August Wilson's The Piano Lesson will be donated to The Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture after the culmination of the production's recently-extended run. The highest grossing revival of a play on Broadway - and the highest grossing Wilson production on Broadway ever - is now playing at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre (243 W 47th Street) through January 29, 2023.

The piano, on which the plot revolves, is decorated with a historical tableau hand-carved by an enslaved ancestor of the main characters. The one created for this production was created by the production's scenic designer, Beowulf Boritt, and built at BB props in Little Falls, NY.

Kenneth Chenault, (Chairperson, National Museum of African American History and Culture Advisory Council), commented, "The prospect of receiving this magnificent piece of theater history into the collection of the Smithsonian African American Museum is exciting. It's an important reminder of the significance of the Black voice in theater and due recognition of the brilliance of August Wilson."

The Piano Lesson is directed by Tony Award® nominee LaTanya Richardson Jackson, who is making her Broadway directorial debut and is the first woman to ever direct an August Wilson play on Broadway. The production stars Samuel L. Jackson as Doaker Charles, John David Washington as Boy Willie, and Danielle Brooks as Berniece. The current cast also features Michael Potts as Wining Boy, Ray Fisher as Lymon, Charles Browning as Avery, April Matthis as Grace, and Nadia Daniel and Jurnee Swan as Maretha at alternating performances.

August Wilson's The Piano Lesson, which premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 1987 and starred a then-39-year-old Samuel L. Jackson as Boy Willie, is the fourth play in the American Century Cycle. Three years later, a new production, starring Carl Gordon, Charles S. Dutton and S. Epatha Merkerson, opened at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, and soon transferred to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre. In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize for drama, The Piano Lesson won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play, the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, the Peabody Award and was nominated for the 1990 Tony Award for Best Play.

The Piano Lesson is set in Pittsburgh's Hill District in 1936. A brother and sister are locked in a war over the fate of a family heirloom: a piano carved with the faces of their ancestors. The Piano Lesson, wrote Frank Rich in The New York Times, "has its own spacious poetry, its own sharp angle on a nation's history, its own metaphorical idea of drama and its own palpable ghosts that roar right through the upstairs window of the household where the action unfolds. Like other Wilson plays, The Piano Lesson seems to sing even when it is talking."

The design team for The Piano Lesson includes Tony Award winner Beowulf Boritt (Set Design), Tony Award nominee Toni-Leslie James (Costume Design), Tony Award nominee Japhy Weideman (Lighting Design), Tony Award winner Scott Lehrer (Sound Design), Drama Desk Award nominee Cookie Jordan (Wig Design), Tony Award nominee Jeff Sugg (Projection Design), Alvin Hough Jr. (Music & Music Direction), Otis Sallid (Choreographer). Casting is by Calleri, Jensen, Davis. General Management is by Foresight Theatrical.

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