Producers Brian Anthony Moreland, Sonia Friedman and Tom Kirdahy announced today that August Wilson’s seminal, Pulitzer Prize-winning drama The Piano Lesson will return to Broadway next season, marking the first Broadway revival in more than 30 years since the play’s Main Stem premiere in 1990. Directed by Tony Award® nominee LaTanya Richardson Jackson, who is making her Broadway directorial debut and will be the first woman to ever direct an August Wilson play on Broadway, this production will star Samuel L. Jackson as Doaker Charles, John David Washington as Boy Willie, and Danielle Brooks as Berniece. The Piano Lesson will begin performances on Monday, September 19, 2022 at the St. James Theatre.
August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Piano Lesson is the fourth play in the American Century Cycle, which premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 1987, starring a then-39-year-old Samuel L. Jackson as Boy Willie. 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.
Ms. Richardson Jackson said, “August Wilson dedicated his life and devoted his talent to dramatizing our stories and our experience. In doing so, he forever changed what it means to be Black in America. His plays built empathy, created community, and showed us the power of representation. The Piano Lesson is one of his most enduring, profound and consequential masterpieces, and I am reveling in this opportunity to present it to Broadway audiences for the first time since its premiere.”
Producers Moreland (Thoughts of a Colored Man), Friedman (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and Kirdahy (Hadestown) said, “We are humbled and honored to return Mr. Wilson’s work to the Broadway stage under the inspirational LaTanya Richardson Jackson. After more than 30 years, The Piano Lesson is still adding to the ever-evolving conversation about family legacy. This production is coming back to Broadway at such an exciting time for our industry as we work to rebuild – and who better than Mr. Wilson to help us.”
Wilson’s American Century Cycle chronicles the Black experience throughout the 20th Century over the course of ten plays – each set in a different decade. The Cycle consists of Jitney, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars, King Hedley II, Gem of the Ocean, and Radio Golf. The Cycle includes five New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award winners, two Pulitzer Prize winners, and a Tony Award-winning 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. Only by revisiting history can the siblings endeavor to move forward. 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 St. James Theatre is owned and operated by Jujamcyn Theaters, who produced the original Broadway production of The Piano Lesson at their theatre, the Walter Kerr, in 1990. In 2005, Jujamcyn Theaters renamed the Virginia Theatre the “August Wilson Theatre” in honor of the Pulitzer-Prize winner. Additionally, their history with August Wilson goes back many years. Jujamcyn Theaters lead produced six original productions in Wilson’s Century Cycle, including the Broadway runs of The Piano Lesson (1990, Walter Kerr); Two Trains Running (1992, Walter Kerr); Seven Guitars (1996, Walter Kerr); King Hedley II (2001, formerly the Virginia, now the August Wilson); Gem of the Ocean (2004, Walter Kerr); and Radio Golf (2007, Cort).
The design team for The Piano Lesson includes Tony Award winner Beowolf 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), and Drama Desk Award nominee Cookie Jordan (Wig Design). Casting by Calleri, Jensen, Davis.