After more than 30 years, the much anticipated Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama The Piano Lesson is set to begin performances next week on September 19 at the Barrymore Theater and will have a limited time engagement of only 17 weeks. The Piano Lesson is set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in 1936 where a brother and sister are locked in a bitter feud about the fate of the family piano that features the carved faces of their ancestors.
The Piano Lesson is part of Wilson’s American Century Cycle that chronicles the African-American experience throughout the 20th century. The play features an all star cast headlined by Academy Award-winning actor Samuel L. Jackson, Screen Actors Guild Award-nominee John David Washington, along with Tony and Emmy-nominee Danielle Brooks. The cast also includes stars Trai Byers, April Matthis, Ray Fisher, and Michael Potts.
This will be Samuel L. Jackson’s first Broadway appearance in over ten years, with him last taking the stage in the 2011 production of The Mountaintop. Jackson played the role of Boy Willie when The Piano Lesson first premiered at the Yale Repertory Theater in 1987. He will be playing the role of Doaker Charles in the revival while being directed by his wife, the Tony-nominated, LaTanya Richardson Jackson.
LaTanya Richardson Jackson, is making her Broadway directorial debut and will be the first woman to direct an August Wilson play on Broadway. “This is a culmination of a great dream that has been in my heart for a long time, so I know it’s going to be bigger than I can even imagine than it is now. So right now, I’m still pinching myself,” she says in reference to what this opportunity and experience means to her.
John David Washington, known for Blackklansman and Tenet, will be making his Broadway debut. Washington is set to take on Jackson’s original role of Boy Willie in the Broadway revival. Washington spoke on what the process has been like for him, “I feel like I’m in grad school. This is an education for me and I feel like I’m becoming a different artist. An artist that I really want to be, and the process is still going,” he says.
When Jackson was asked if he gave Washington any advice on the role, he made it clear that he was very hands off in order to allow Washington to make the role his own. Washington did however mention he was able to tap into his familial resources by getting some advice from his father, Denzel Washington, who is set to produce the film adaptation of The Piano Lesson, on not being afraid to try new things with this role.
Danielle Brooks, who is set to play the role of Berniece, rose to fame for her Emmy-winning performance of Taystee in the Netflix produced Orange is the New Black. Brooks’ previous Broadway works include playing the role of Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing and Sofia in The Color Purple, which she received her Tony-nomination for and is also set to play the same role in the upcoming film adaptation. Brooks briefly discussed auditioning, and ultimately being accepted, into Juilliard with a piece from The Piano Lesson and now feels as though she gets to do the play “in totality.” With working with the Jackson’s and Washington, Brooks expressed her gratitude in being a part of the production while also embracing the family dynamic with the cast stating that “this is what this story is all about. It’s about family.”
The Piano Lesson begins previews on September 19 and will have a limited 17 week run. More information on the Broadway show and tickets can be found on the official website below:
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