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August Wilson’s ‘The Piano Lesson’ To Play The Ethel Barrymore Theatre

Producers Brian Anthony MorelandSonia FriedmanTom Kirdahy, Kandi Burruss and Todd Tucker announced today that the first Broadway revival of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, which comes more than 30 years after the seminal, Pulitzer Prize®-winning drama’s premiere, will now play the Ethel Barrymore Theatre (243 West 47th Street) for its 17-week engagement. The Barrymore’s history with Wilson’s legacy stretches back to 1988, when the original production ofJoe Turner’s Come and Gone (the second play in his American Century Cycle) premiered there to glowing reviews, earning the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. Performances for The Piano Lesson will begin on Monday, September 19, 2022. The official Opening Night will be announced at a later date.

Tickets at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre are now on sale at PianoLessonPlay.com or Telecharge.com. All current ticket holders will be moved to the Ethel Barrymore automatically and will receive a confirmation email in the coming days.

The Piano Lesson will be 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. The show stars Samuel L. Jackson as Doaker Charles, John David Washington as Boy Willie, and Danielle Brooks as Berniece. The cast also features Trai Byers as Avery, Ray Fisher as Lymon, April Matthis as Grace, and Michael Potts as Wining Boy. 

Producer Moreland commented, “We are thrilled to have secured this iconic playhouse, which happened to have been one of August Wilson’s favorite theaters. The legacy of the Barrymore makes it the ideal space to experience a play all about how we shepherd and look after our ancestral legacies.”

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.

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 ofJitneyMa Rainey’s Black BottomFencesJoe Turner’s Come and GoneThe Piano LessonTwo Trains RunningSeven GuitarsKing Hedley IIGem 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 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), Drama Desk Award nominee Cookie Jordan (Wig Design), Tony Award nominee Jeff Snug (Projection Design), and Tony Award winner Jason Michael Webb (Music & Music Direction). Casting is by CalleriJensenDavis. General Management is by Foresight Theatrical.