The Ensemble Theatre continues its celebration of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson’s American Century Cycle with a staged reading of The Piano Lesson, directed by Alex Morris, Monday, January 25, 2016, 6:00pm at The Deluxe Theater 3303 Lyons Avenue, Houston, TX 77020.
Alex Morris, is a former Alley Theatre company member and lead character in The Ensemble’s current main stage production of August Wilson’s Fences.
“I’ve had the opportunity to perform in several of August Wilson’s plays throughout my career and look forward to the opportunity to direct this staged reading,” says Morris. “This play has such strong symbolism as the piano we identify with for its ability to produce melodic chords is revealed as an instrument of this family’s great joy and ancestral history.”
The Piano Lesson, the fourth play Wilson wrote in his cycle, is set in 1936 Pittsburgh during the aftermath of the Great Depression. The play deals with themes of family legacy and tells the story of the Charles family and a brother and sister who have different ideas on what to do with the piano they own. Bernice Charles wants to keep it in the family by selling the piano to her daughter, but her brother Boy Willy wants to sell it for the money to buy the land their family once toiled as slaves.
A soft opening of the Historic Fifth Ward Deluxe Theater has been underway with the Texas Southern University Visual and Performing Arts Department as the current artistic resident responsible for its programming. The theatre was a movie cinema during the 1940’s and 50’s, and has been transformed into a traditional proscenium stage performance space. Through a special collaboration, The Ensemble Theatre was invited to host one of its readings in the newly renovated building.
August Wilson American Century Cycle Staged Reading
The Piano Lesson, Monday, January 25, 2016, 6:00pm
The Deluxe Theater
3303 Lyons Avenue
Houston, TX 77020
More Info: www.EnsembleHouston.com or 713-520-0055 Box Office
This collaboration between The Ensemble Theatre and TSU is an extension of a relationship that began more than 30 years ago, and the second time they’ve connected through August Wilson’s play, The Piano Lesson. Ensemble Theatre founder George Hawkins sought university interns to work with him on shows he directed; some of whom later became paid artists with the theatre. While The Ensemble Theatre was undergoing capital improvements and needed a space to perform their 1994 production of The Piano Lesson, TSU provided use of its Hannah Hall auditorium.
“We are especially excited about hosting one of our readings at The Deluxe Theater,” says Eileen Morris, The Ensemble Theatre Artistic Director. “This collaboration is a unique way for us to celebrate our relationship with TSU, and the Deluxe Theater signifying a part of Houston’s history that has gone through a transformational new beginning.”
August Wilson was born April 27, 1945 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He became an award winning playwright known for chronicling African American life through his cycle of 10-plays known as the Pittsburgh cycle. Although the plays are not written as a series, some of the characters interconnect between plays to give a since that a communal story is being told from varying perspectives.
“Last year August Wilson would have been 70 years old, and it was the 10th year of his transition,” says Morris. “I knew Mr. Wilson personally and he was an amazing man whose work has had a profound impact on me professionally and on theatre communities worldwide.”
The Ensemble Theatre’s celebration of Wilson’s work brings together a variety of artists and directors participating in staged readings of all 10 plays in chronological order.
Most recently held staged readings:
1. Gem of the Ocean October 19, 2015, 6:00pm,
2. Joe Turner’s Come and Gone November 16, 2015, 6:00pm
3. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom December 21, 2015, 6:00pm
Upcoming Reading at The Deluxe Theater, 3303 Lyons Avenue:
4. Piano Lesson (Pulitzer Award) January 25, 2016, 6:00pm (Partnership with The Deluxe Theater)
All remaining staged readings will be held at The Ensemble Theatre, 3535 Main St. Houston, TX 77002:
5. Seven Guitars February 22, 2016, 6:00pm
6. Fences (Pulitzer and Tony Award) March 28, 2016, 6:00pm — A Houston Celebrity Reading
7. Two Trains Running April 27, 2016, 6:00pm –Happy Birthday August Wilson!
8. Jitney May 23, 2016, 6:00pm
9. King Hedley II June 27, 2016, 6:00pm
10. Radio Golf July 18, 2016, 6:00pm
The Ensemble Theatre’s August Wilson American Century Cycle staged readings is funded by a grant from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance.
The Ensemble Theatre was founded in 1976 by the late George Hawkins to preserve African American artistic expression and to enlighten, entertain, and enrich a diverse community. The theatre is known as the only professional theatre in its region dedicated to the production of works portraying the African American experience. In addition to being the oldest and largest professional African-American theatre in the Southwest, it also holds the distinction of being one of the nation’s largest African American theatres that owns and operates its facility with an in-house production team. The late Board President Audrey Lawson led the capital campaign for The Ensemble’s $4.5 million building renovations that concluded in 1997.
The Ensemble Theatre produces a main stage season of six contemporary and classic works devoted to the portrayal of the African American experience by local and national playwrights and artists. The theatre’s Performing Arts Education program provides educational workshops, Artist-in-Residence experiences and live performances for students both off-site and at the theatre. Through its varied programs, The Ensemble Theatre benefits an audience and artistic constituency of approximately 65,000 people annually.
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