Wednesday, December 23, 2015

August Wilson’s 'The Piano Lesson' next at McCarter Theatre Center

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 and Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New  Play, August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson is set in 1930s Pittsburgh, revolving 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 (Marcus Callender) 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 of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson is a collection of amazing talent, including  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.

About Jade King Carroll’s directorial debut, McCarter Theatre Center Artistic Director Emily Mann said: “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. 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. It is with great pride and excitement that I introduce you to her work.”

The design team for August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson includes Helen Hayes and Obie award-winning scenic designer Neil Patel, costume design by Paul Tazewell (creator of the stunning looks of 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 will also include 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). 

August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson runs Jan. 8 – Feb. 7 on the Berlind Stage.  

CAST (in alphabetical order)

Grace: Shannon Janee Antalan*
Doaker: John Earl Jelks*
Maretha: Frances Brown 
Boy Willie: Marcus Callender*
Wining Boy: Cleavant Derricks*
Berniece: Miriam A. Hyman*
Avery: Owiso Odera*
Lymon: David Pegram*

*Denotes membership in Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the United States. 

Ticket Information
Single tickets for August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson start as low as $25 and are on sale now online at, by phone at (609) 258-2787, or in person at the McCarter Theatre Ticket Office, located at 91 University Place in Princeton. August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson will be performed on the Berlind Stage. The production runs 2 hours and 45 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.

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