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2007/08 Press Releases
Arden Theatre Company presents The Piano Lesson
By August Wilson, Directed by Walter Dallas, On the F. Otto Haas Stage, March 6 - April 6, 2008
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February 12, 2008

Philadelphia, PA - Arden Theatre Company presents the Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Piano Lesson by August Wilson from March 6 through April 6, 2008. The Piano Lesson, the fourth mainstage production of the Arden's 20th Anniversary Season, is sponsored by Commerce Bank. Arden Theatre Company invites the public to share their stories as we celebrate 20 years in the Philadelphia region as a premiere venue for both experiencing and sharing meaningful narratives by visiting us online at The Arden's 20th Anniversary Season is sponsored by PNC Bank.

The Piano Lesson
By August Wilson
Directed by Walter Dallas
Sponsored by Commerce Bank
Honorary Producer: The Honorable Michael A. Nutter, Mayor, City of Philadelphia

Set in Pittsburgh in 1936, Boy Willie battles his sister Berniece over the future of a treasured heirloom: a piano, carved with African-style portraits by their great grandfather, an enslaved plantation carpenter. He wants to sell it to buy land. She insists that the instrument carries too much family history to cast aside. The issue of whether or not to sell it cuts deeply and raises questions about honoring the past or moving into the future.

Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 1990
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play, 1990
New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play, 1990
Tony Award nomination for Best Play, 1990

Arden Theatre Company
F. Otto Haas Stage
40 N. 2nd Street, Old City Philadelphia

March 6 April 6, 2008
Preview performances: March 6 - 11
Opening night: 7pm Wednesday, March 12
Reviewing members of the press are invited to attend opening night and may reserve tickets by contacting Beth Yeagle at

$27-$45 for adults depending on the performance chosen
Group discounts available for 10+
Student Rush tickets at the door only five minutes before curtain for $5 cash, pending availability (must present valid student ID)
Call the Box Office at 215.922.1122 or visit

Berniece: Kala Moses Baxter (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Grace: Katrina Yvette Cooper (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Maretha: Chioma Dunkley (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Boy Willie: Kes Khemnu (resident of Roslyn, PA)
Doaker: Julian Rozzell, Jr. (resident of Astoria, NY)
Wining Boy: Harum Ulmer, Jr. (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Lymon: Yaegel T. Welch (resident of Brooklyn, NY)
Avery: Brian Anthony Wilson (resident of Cherry Hill, NJ)

Director: Walter Dallas (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Set Designer: Donald Eastman (resident of New York, NY)
Lighting Designer: Curtis Hodge (resident of North Plainfield, NJ)
Costume Designer: Alison Roberts (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Sound Designer: Jorge Cousineau (resident of Philadelphia, PA)
Stage Manager: Katharine Hanley (resident of Glenside, PA)

August Wilson is one of the most celebrated playwrights in American Theatre whose most important literary legacy is the cycle of ten plays he wrote chronicling the African American experience in the 20th century, decade by decade. Wilson's plays are famous for their rich poetic language and their era-specific domestic details woven into larger issues of history, memory and legacy.

"August Wilson's Century Cycle is one of the most ambitious dramatic projects ever undertaken." –The New York Times

The Piano Lesson takes place in 1936. Doaker Charles and his niece, Berniece, live in a house in Pittsburgh's historic Hill District, the area where August Wilson grew up. A piano, adorned with ancestral portraits carved by her enslaved great grandfather, serves as a constant reminder of her family's history. Although Berniece has no intention of getting rid of the piano, she's also refused to play a note since her mother's death.

Berniece's brother, Boy Willie, shares none of his sister's sentimental attachment, instead viewing the piano as a valuable antique. He arrives in Pittsburgh with the intention of cashing in, and wants to use his share of the proceeds to buy some land the very land where his ancestors once worked as slaves. Boy Willie sees this proposed transaction as an apt way to bury the past and move into the future; however Berniece is less willing to cast aside her family heirloom. Wilson uses lyrical dialogue and multi-layered characters to vividly bring to life the struggle to balance the weight of the past while moving into the future.

"Money can't buy what that piano costs. You can't sell your soul for money. It won't go to the buyer." –Berniece, The Piano Lesson

Terrence J. Nolen, the Arden's Producing Artistic Director, commented, "We are drawn to plays and musicals that explore the story of the American family - Death of a Salesman, The Grapes of Wrath, Winesburg, Ohio and August Wilson's Fences. We are honored to return to the work of August Wilson in our 20th Anniversary Season because he's a playwright whose exploration of family, community and identity is an unparalleled achievement full of insight, poetry, heartbreak and humor."

This is the second August Wilson play produced by the Arden. The Arden's 2005 production of August Wilson's Fences, co-produced with the Actor's Theatre of Louisville, was nominated for three Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre.

Arden Theatre Company's production of The Piano Lesson is directed by Walter Dallas, the former Artistic Director at the historic Freedom Theatre in Philadelphia. "I am thrilled that Walter Dallas is directing this production. I have long admired Walter's work. Ever since I saw his production of Two Trains Running at the Philadelphia Drama Guild nearly fifteen years ago I have wanted to work with him. It is such a pleasure to welcome him to the Arden to direct this most remarkable play," said Nolen.

Dallas is an honors graduate of Morehouse College and the Yale School of Drama. He moved to Philadelphia in 1983 to create the School of Theatre for the University of the Arts and soon became deeply affiliated with Freedom Theatre. Highly respected by August Wilson, Dallas was asked by Wilson and Lloyd Richards to direct the world premiere of Seven Guitars at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. That production was named one of the Ten Best Theatre Events of the year by Newsweek magazine. When the Pittsburgh Public Theatre asked Wilson if they could revive Jitney, Wilson gave permission but only if Dallas would direct the production. Dallas was one of a few theatre luminaries chosen to present a paper on Black Theatre at Wilson's historic "The Ground On Which I Stand" Conference at Dartmouth University. He was also asked to speak at the August Wilson Memorial Tribute on Broadway.

Dallas's awards include an Honorary Doctorate from the University of the Arts, two Creative Genius Awards, two New York Audelco Awards for Excellence in Black Theatre, a California Emmy Award for his first play, Willie Lobo/Manchild, and The Mover and Shaker Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Promotion of South African Arts and Culture.

The Arden is wheelchair accessible and provides assisted listening devices and large-print programs at every performance. Reservations are required for accessible seating and may be made by calling the Arden's Box Office at 215.922.1122. Captioned and audio-described performances are scheduled for Saturday, April 5 at 8pm and Sunday, April 6 at 2pm.

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©2009 Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19106. For tickets, call 215.922.1122.
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