Well into the 2013-2014 season, Cape Fear Regional Theatre opens August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson on March 6 for a run that will last through March 23. The Piano Lesson, a modern day classic won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1990 and was a 1990 Drama Desk Award winner for Outstanding New Play.
The story is set in 1936. Boy Willie, played by J. Alphonse Nicholson, arrives in Pittsburgh in a beat up truck loaded with watermelons. He’s just come from the South and has an opportunity to buy land down home. He needs money to make it happen. He decides to sell the old piano that has been in his family for generations. The problem is that he shares ownership of the piano with his sister — and the piano is in her living room. Previous attempts to buy the piano have been rebuffed because the piano is covered with beautiful carvings that tell the story of the family’s rise from slavery. Boy Willie is determined to get his sister to sell the piano. His sister is determined to keep the treasured heirloom in the family. Like many productions at Cape Fear Regional Theater, there is story, but there is so much more in this piece.
Director Jade King Carroll comes to CFRT with a long list of accomplishments including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Portland Stage); A Raisin In The Sun (Juilliard & Perseverance); Seven Guitars (People’s Light and Theatre & Point Park University); King Hedley (Portland Playhouse); The Etymology of Bird (CitiParksSummer Stages); Cherry Smoke (Theatre Row); Sex on Sunday (BE Company @ Urban Stages); The Basset Table (Adelphi); Marisol (NYCDA); Black Girl, You’ve Been Gentrified (Joe’s Pub); Radio Golf (Penn State); The History of Light, Samuel J&K and The Summer House ( Passage Theatre). She sees the play as an opportunity for the audience to connect and start a conversation.. “It’s exciting to watch this piece evolve. Everyone will walk in with different experiences to draw from. It is a chance to share a space and an experience with someone you might not have otherwise.”
Nicholson, who is no stranger to CFRT performed in The Parchman Hour on his last visit to town. Other recent credits include A Raisin In the Sun (Playmakers Rep); Blood Knot (Street signs), and The Brothers Size (Manbites Dog). He sees the play as a realistic look at people and at life. “There are no good guys and no bad guys in this story — just people. Family. We all have families and we have all said and done hurtful things and had to deal with hard decisions that cause strife and pain between people. I think everyone will be able to relate to that.”
Lawrence Hamilton has performed in several CFRT productions over the years including Big River, Dream Girls, Ragtime, Driving Miss Daisy. Hamilton carries the role of Wining Boy. “Coming to CFRT is like coming home,” said Hamilton. “I was always interested in being in a play by August Wilson. To be asked to do an August Wilson play is an achievement.”
Hamilton debuted on Broadway in 1979 in Timbuktu. Hamilton is a 2003 inductee into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, a 2005 inductee into the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame and a recipient of the 2004 Little Rock Arts and Cultural Alliance Award.
The Piano Lesson is part to of the CFRT 18th Annual Classic Theatre Series play, providing more than 1500 students from Cumberland County free tickets to see this American masterpiece. “We are partnering with Cumberland County Schools to bring this to local 11th grade students at no cost,” said CFRT Marketing Director Leslie Flom. “The students are reading the book in their English classes. There are a limited number of performances and two shows have already sold out.”
Visit www.cfrt.org or call 323.4233 for find out more or to purchase tickets.