UW-Parkside Presents Readings of The Piano Lesson Feb
7 & 8
by Dave Buchanan
The University of Wisconsin-Parkside celebrates Black History Month in February with two readings of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama The Piano Lesson. The readings are Feb. 7 and 8 in the university’s Augie Wegner Studio Theatre with proceeds going to America's Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee.
Set in Pittsburgh during the 1930s, The Piano Lesson tells the story of Boy Willie Charles who bursts into his widowed sister Bernice’s life with a dream: to buy the Mississippi land where their ancestors once worked as slaves. The problem is Boy Willie’s plan involves selling the family’s prized possession, an heirloom piano gathering dust in Bernice’s home.
“The piano is really a symbol of the Charles family’s enslaved past,” said the play’s director and UW-Parkside admissions counselor Ed Jenkins. “That’s because the piano is carved with proud portraits of their lost relatives. Boy Willie finds a buyer but Bernice refuses to sell, clinging to the piano as a reminder of the family’s history. Their conflict is the real piano lesson.”
Jenkins calls The Piano Lesson a wonderful play because it shows how African Americans are often deprived of both the chance to acknowledge their past and to seize the opportunities of the present.
The Piano Lesson is presented as a staged reading. That means there are no elaborate sets or costumes. Actors simply stand or sit and while they are very familiar with the text they don’t memorize their lines. For the UW-Parkside reading, a full African American cast has been assembled mainly from university students and staff. The readings are sponsored by the UW-Parkside Black Student Union and the Theatre Arts Department.
The Piano Lesson is presented in a matinee performance Friday, Feb. 7 at 10 a.m. and Saturday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $5. Seating is limited. To reserve seats or for more information, call Ed Jenkins at (262) 595-2569 or access firstname.lastname@example.org via email.