Samuel L. Jackson is returning to the stage.
After 10 years, Jackson will star in the Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama The Piano Lesson. Danielle Brooks and John David Washington are co-starring in the revival alongside Jackson. And the return also marks a family affair as his wife, LaTanya Richardson is set to direct. Richardson makes history as the first woman ever to direct an August Wilson play on Broadway.
“August Wilson dedicated his life and devoted his talent to dramatizing our stories and our experience,” shares Richardson Jackson in a statement. “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.”
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The Piano Lesson is set in Pittsburgh’s Hill District in 1936. It centers on a brother and sister embroiled in a battle over a family heirloom piano carved with the faces of their ancestors. Jackson will star as Doaker Charles, with Washington as Boy Willie and Brooks as Berniece.
Brian Anthony Moreland, Sonia Friedman, and Tom Kirdahy are producing The Piano Lesson.
In a joint statement, the producers 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.”
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The design team for The Piano Lesson includes Beowolf Boritt (Set Design), Toni-Leslie James (Costume Design), Japhy Weideman (Lighting Design), Scott Lehrer (Sound Design), and Cookie Jordan (Wig Design).
The play is the fourth in Wilson’s Century Cycle. It explores the Black experience in every decade of the 20th century with such works as Fences, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Jitney, among others. The Pinao Lesson first premiered at Yale Repertory Theatre in 1987 and starred a then-39-year-old Jackson as Boy Willie, the role that will be played next season by Washington. It then made its Broadway debut at the Goodman Theatre production in 1990, starring Carl Gordon, Charles S. Dutton, and S. Epatha Merkerson. The work would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and New York Drama Critics’ Circle and Drama Desk Awards for Best Play, along with a Peabody.
It was later adapted into a TV movie IN 1995. Lloyd Richards directed the film that starred Charles S. Dutton and Alfre Woodard, Carl Gordon,
Tommy Hollis, Courtney B. Vance, Lou Myers and more. It was nominated for the 1995 Emmy Award for Outstanding Made for Television Movie and the 1996 Emmy Award Outstanding Television Movie or Mini-Series.
The Piano Lesson was then revived Off-Broadway in 2013 and won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Revival, as well as Outstanding Lead Actress, Outstanding Featured Actor, and Outstanding Director. Denzel Washington is working on adapting The Piano Lesson into a new film for Netflix.
The upcoming production will be its first Broadway revival. The Piano Lesson will begin performances on Monday, September 19, at the St. James Theatre.
Jordan Roth, President of Jujamcyn Theaters, owner and operator of the St. James, said, “Over 30 years ago, Jujamcyn began a deep and meaningful association with August Wilson when The Piano Lesson first opened on Broadway, so we are especially grateful to be part of welcoming it home once again.”