August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson is being revived on Broadway with a star-studded cast in 2022. Samuel L. Jackson, John David Washington, and Danielle Brooks lead the cast of The Piano Lesson, playing at the Barrymore Theatre for 17 weeks only. Get The Piano Lesson tickets on New York Theatre Guide now.
The Piano Lesson is a play about family history and heritage, and how best to honor that heritage. It's 1936, and the two adult siblings of the Charles family cannot agree on what to do with a family heirloom: a piano that is hand-carved with the faces of their enslaved ancestors. Berneice (Brooks) insists on keeping the piano as a reminder of her ancestors and their hardships. But Willie (Washington), a sharecropper, wants to sell the piano and use the money to buy the land where their ancestors worked as slaves, believing the best way to honor them is to take back the land that their ancestors couldn't own in their own lifetime.
The already difficult decision gets further complicated when it appears that familial ghosts appear to haunt the Charles household. The siblings' living uncle, Doaker (Jackson), is on hand throughout the play as the storyteller. As an older family member, he possesses the most knowledge of the piano's — and the family's — storied history, which his niece and nephew are not always quick to share.
LaTanya Richardson Jackson directs the 2022 production, which is the play's first Broadway revival. The premiere production of The Piano Lesson on Broadway was in 1987 at Yale Repertory Theatre, with a younger Jackson playing Boy Willie alongside Carl Gordon as Doaker and Starletta DuPois as Berneice. After playing a second engagement at Huntington Theatre Company in Boston (with Charles S. Dutton in place of Jackson), that production moved to Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre in 1990 and played there for nine months.
Though the show lost out on the Best Play Tony Award, it did win the 1990 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play and New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play. The Piano Lesson also won the Peabody Award and earned Wilson his second Pulitzer Prize for Drama, after Fences in 1987.
The play is part of his Pittsburgh Cycle, a collection of 10 plays about Black American life that each take place in a different decade of the 20th century. All the plays in the cycle feature strong female characters (inspired by the values of Wilson's own mother) and are written in Black vernacular, and many include supernatural elements.
Tickets to The Piano Lesson are available now.