‘The Piano Lesson’ May Teach More Than Music

From left: Pyramid actors Emmett Saah Phillips Jr., Aaron Smith, Tiffany Johnson and Larryah Travis surround the piano, a family heirloom at the center of dispute in “The Piano Lesson.” (Read more about Phillips in this dsm story.) Photo courtesy of Des Moines Community Playhouse.

August Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning play “The Piano Lesson” opens Friday and runs through Feb. 19 at Des Moines Community Playhouse. The co-production from the Playhouse and Pyramid Theater Company opens 10 years to the day after Pyramid’s first reading of its first show, “Fences,” another Wilson classic. In the decade since, the award-winning company has introduced local audiences to an array of classic and new stories by Black playwrights.

“The Piano Lesson” title refers to a family heirloom in dispute. A sister wants to keep it in the family, but a brother wants to sell it off to buy land their enslaved ancestors used to work.

“It’s a reminder that family and community, not material things, are what get us through when it feels like the world is falling down around you,” says company co-founder Ken-Matt Martin, who lives in Chicago and has returned to town to direct the show. “I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.”

Read the backstory at dsmmagazine.com.

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