Celebrating Black History Month at the VCU Libraries
Reviewed by Donna Coghill, Public Services Specialist
Set in mid-1930s Pittsburgh, The Piano Lesson tells the story of a brother and sister struggling over an intricately carved heirloom piano. One believes the piano represents the future by selling it to buy land previously worked by their slave ancestors; the other believes the piano represents the future by honoring the past and must remain in the family’s possession. Though the piano represents the center of conflict, the real conflict lies in August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize winning exploration of family, heritage and recognition. When reading this play, the reader comes face-to-face with their own family legacy. We can all relate to family struggles, and Wilson exemplifies this with well defined and relatable characters. Perhaps the most touching example of family relations comes when the brother finally comes to his own understanding of what family, heritage and legacy really mean. Read The Piano Lesson as a stirring example of August Wilson’s fine work—in 2005 we lost not only a great playwright who told stories of black America, but a man who continually redefined all American Theatre traditions.