The Piano Lesson - Nov. 16 to 20

actor in white hat sits on a bench with script in hand

Directed by Jean-Remy Monnay

Department Performances

  • Wednesday, November 16, 2022 at 8pm - Purchase tickets here
  • Thursday, November 17, 2022 at 8pm - Purchase tickets here
  • Friday, November 18, 2022 at 3pm - Purchase tickets here
  • Saturday, November 19, 2022 at 2pm - Purchase tickets here
  • Saturday, November 19, 2022 at 8pm - Purchase tickets here
  • Sunday, November 20, 2022 at 2pm - Purchase tickets here

August Wilson’s play is set in 1936. Boy Willie arrives in Pittsburgh from the South in a battered truck loaded with watermelons to sell. He has an opportunity to buy some land down home, but he has to come up with the money right quick. He wants to sell an old piano that has been in his family for generations, but he shares ownership with his sister and it sits in her living room. She has already rejected several offers because the antique piano is covered with incredible carvings detailing the family’s rise from slavery. Boy Willie tries to persuade his stubborn sister that the past is past, but she is more formidable than he anticipated.

  • Advance tickets: $17 general public / $12 students, seniors & UAlbany faculty-staff
  • Day of show tickets: $22 general public / $17 students, seniors & UAlbany faculty-staff
  • Please read our current COVID safety protocols


(Photo by Claire Dell-Priscoli)

The Theatre Program of the University at Albany’s Department of Music and Theatre is pleased to present August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and 1990 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play.

The Piano Lesson is part of Wilson’s Century Cycle of ten plays, each written for a different decade of the 20th century and chronicling African American history and culture. It is the fourth play in the cycle (set in the 1930s) which also includes the Pulitzer Prize-winning Fences (set in the 1950s).  Wilson's epic body of work has quickly gone from contemporary plays to being American classics.  Besides his Pulitzer for The Piano Lesson, he also won one for Fences (1987) along with a Tony Award for Fences, Britain’s Olivier Award for Jitney and eight NY Drama Critics' Circle Awards.

The play is set in the Hill District of Pittsburgh where Wilson grew up. It tells the story of a brother and sister who are in disagreement over what to do with a family heirloom piano, and a community reckoning with how to both honor their ancestors and move towards the future.

The play's first Broadway production was in 1990.  It is currently playing there with Samuel L Jackson who was also in the play's premiere in 1987 at Yale Rep.

Theatre Program Director Kate Walat explains, “We have been wanting to bring one of August Wilson's classics to the stage for some time and are thrilled to have Jean-Remy Monnay on board to direct one of his finest.”

Monnay is the founder and Producing Artistic Director of the Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate NY.  Founded in 2009, the group’s mission is to promote performances and theatrical pieces by, and about, artists of color. In highlighting these works, the company hopes to foster greater understanding, appreciation and participation in the performing arts within communities of color.   Monnay is also an Associate Artist with both Capital Rep in Albany and The Troy Foundry Theatre.

Monnay’s directorial credits include Yours For The Oppressed, Barbecue, Dead and Breathing, AIN’T Misbehavin’, The Light, A Lesson Before Dying, The Niceties, Mountaintop, Camp Logan, Fences, Eclipsed, Harriet Tubman Visits A Therapist, Medal Of Honor Rag, Slow Dance On The Killing Ground, Intimate Apparel, The Exonerated, American Dream, Wedding Band, Reunion in Bartersville, Meridian Mississippi and American Dream.

“One of my goals is to direct or produce all ten plays in August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle,” says Monnay.  “All are about family struggle, pain, racism, dysfunctional at times, but love eventually wins.”