Celebrating Black History Month at William Peace University

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By Maya Bryant

The students at William Peace University are celebrating Black History Month with their first play of the spring semester August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson.”

The Piano Lesson is a 1990 Play written by African-American Playwright August Wilson. “The Piano Lesson” is a theatrical whirlwind with the power to tear away barriers between the past and the present, the living and the dead, and reveal the darkest secrets and brightest aspirations dwelling in the human heart.

In the hands of Director, William Peace’s newest professor; Ms. Amy White and the talented cast including Josh Walker ’16, DJ Curtis ’16, Jarrett Bennett ’17, Ebony Miles ’17, and Chris Haskins ’17 have been working hard since their winter break to succeed at putting on an intense play about one particular family, a crackling good ghost story, and an exorcism of the American soul.

Set in a house in Pittsburgh, “The Piano Lesson” centers on the conflict between a young widow named Berniece (Ebony Miles ‘17) and her brother Boy Willie (Jarrett Bennett ’17) over Boy Willie’s desire to sell a piano that their father made. It’s not just an ordinary piano, though; the piece bears carved representations of the family’s slave ancestors, and as such is storage of family’s history. Boy Willie wants to sell it so that he can buy back land in Mississippi, but Berniece refuses to let the piano go even though she never plays it.

“It is an extraordinary piece with which to celebrate Black History Month. Moreover with themes of family, tradition, romance and music, this is a play to which everyone can relate.” Said Director Amy White.

The Theatre Department at William Peace University have never chosen to celebrate Black History Month is such a way, as this is the school’s very first all-African-American Cast.

“It is a pleasure and a challenge to be given such an important opportunity of relaying the message of family and history,” said Walker.

Tackling this nitpicking and fine tune vision has not been an easy task for the cast. One of the challenges of staging a Wilson play is balancing the language and folksy humor.

“Having to learn how to speak in very challenge type of dialect, would have to have been my biggest challenge thus far,” said Bennett as Boy Willie, Bennett is working on being electric, with vocal delivery that is as quick as his swinging limbs.

“A difficulty in preparing in preparing for this role is aging myself, while in a decade that is filled with strife that I have not encountered,” said Curtis.

Curtis is trying to bring Doaker to life by reserving realism of family.  Curtis’s Uncle Doaker tries finds humor where there is little, and steadiness where there is turmoil.

For theatre-goers both familiar and unfamiliar with the late, great August Wilson’s repertoire of soaring American drama, William Peace University’s production of The Piano Lesson is an important reminder of what great playwriting can do for human understanding.

The Piano Lesson runs from February 5th-8th in Leggett Theatre at William Peace University at 7:30pm and 2:00pm on February 7th and 8th. For tickets visit www.peace.edu/events.

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