Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Pulitzer Prize-winning 'The Piano Lesson' at Grossmont College features all-black cast

The Grossmont College Theatre Arts Department is breaking new ground with a production of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Piano Lesson, May 7-16 at the Stagehouse Theatre. 

This marks the first time the Theatre Arts Department will stage a play by August Wilson, a giant among American playwrights, or will stage a play with an all-black cast.

The Piano Lesson revolves around the dilemma presented when sharecropper Boy Willie seeks to purchase the land upon which his family once toiled as slaves, a plan opposed by his sister, Bernice, because it means selling a family heirloom – a piano carved with images of their African ancestors and crafted by their enslaved grandfather. The play is set in Pittsburgh in 1936.

The Piano Lesson provokes the question of what, ultimately, is the price of freedom and a fresh start. Wilson’s inspiration came from a Romare Bearden painting by the same name, seeing in its scene of a teacher and student an allegory for how African Americans must learn to negotiate their history.

“August Wilson is probably one of the most underrated playwrights this country has produced and The Piano Lesson is one of his greatest works,” said Grossmont College theatre student Glynn Long, who plays the role of Boy Willie.

Performances of The Piano Lesson are set for May 7, 8, 9, 14, 15 & 16 at 7:30 p.m., and May 9 and 16 at 2 p.m. at the Stagehouse Theatre on the Grossmont College Campus, 8800 Grossmont College Drive. Ticket prices are $15 for general admission, $10 for seniors and members of the military, and $10 for students with ID. Tickets can be purchased the box office or online .

“This is a wonderful play taking place in an era that young students often know nothing about,” said Beth Duggan, the Theatre Arts Department chair who will be directing the play. “The cast is excellent and the story is amazing.”

The Piano Lesson is part of what has become know as The Century Cycle, of which Wilson earned two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Wilson’s other Pulitzer-winning play is Fences, in which a former star athlete forbids his son from following his path and accepting an athletic scholarship. Each Century Cycle play is set in a different decade, depicting the comic and tragic aspects of the African-American experience in the 20th century.

August Wilson was born poor into a family of seven in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Due to the intense racism, he left school at age 16, opting to educate himself independently at the city library. 

About Grossmont College

Grossmont College is “Changing Lives Through Education” and has served the diverse educational needs of San Diego’s East County since 1962. With a wide variety of certificate and associate’s degree programs, Grossmont College provides workforce training, career development and transferable college-level coursework to its more than 18,000 students. For more information, visit

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