THE PIANO LESSON

PROVOKES THE POWER OF LEGACY,  the Ensemble  theatre proudly presents “ e Piano Lesson,” as the third production of its 47th Season, “Legacy Alive: Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future.” “ e Piano Lesson,” winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, is the fourth play in August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle/ Century Cycle. Set in 1936 Pittsburgh, “ e Piano Lesson” is centered on a 137-year-old heirloom, a piano, with carvings that incarnate the Charles family’s ancestral lineage and spirit. Celebrity artist Jason Dirden, known for ‘Greenleaf and ‘American Soul,’ returns home to Houston and  the Ensemble  theatre as Boy Willie Charles. Along with Dirden, the stellar cast includes Lakeisha Randle (Berniece Charles), Alex Morris (Doaker Charles), Kendrick “Kay B” Brown (Lymon), Timothy Eric (Wining Boy Charles), Curtis Von (Avery), Kendall Goode (Maretha Charles) and Krystal Uchem (Grace). I recently sat down with the “Charles” men to discuss “ e Piano Lesson,” legacy and August Wilson’s impact on theatre. (Interview edited for length and clarity.) “ e Piano Lesson” embodies themes like family/ legacy/historical relevancy.

 

How does your character respond to the overarching question, “What do you do with legacy?” ALEX: I think Doaker is the historian. He is now the real patriarch of the family. Everybody ends up at Doaker’s place because he’s the one who has always maintained a sense of consistency. He also is protective of his family … that father  figure, that rock, which is an important theme in all of Wilson’s plays. JASON: In terms of legacy and what to do with it, I think Boy Willie’s mindset is that if it’s not propelling us forward then what good is it doing? If we aren’t using it to build and to move forward as a family and to grow and to lift ourselves out of the bottom of life, then what are we doing? Would Boy Willie feel the same way about legacy today? JASON: Absolutely. Boy Willie would be: “Let’s go buy up some shopping centers, this is held over here to grow our wealth and to continue to raise ourselves socially and economically as a family, as a people.”

 

THE PIANO LESSON

ALEX: When I moved to L.A., the first thing I did when I made money was buy property. During those times when we weren’t making money, the property sustained us. Boy Willie understood that concept. And it was that sense of freedom that Doaker clearly understood as well. TIM: I think Wining Boy learned a little too late about the legacy of family, particularly marriage. He was married to Cleotha. At one time, they had a beautiful marriage. It had its problems, but they loved each other even though they split up. After she passes, he realizes that she was the most important thing in his life that was beautiful. For Wining Boy, the legacy of family and marriage is the most significant thing. You love and treat good women right.  That is the legacy. What is your favorite August Wilson play? (Alex has appeared in all 10 of the Century Cycle plays, while Jason and Timothy have done seven.) ALEX: It’s Fences, by far. Troy was a lot like my father. TIM: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is probably up there and edges out the rest of them.

 

JASON: Every (Wilson) play has so much depth.  They are stories about your own life. So whatever play I’m working on at the moment is my favorite. What is your most favorite thing about acting?

TIM: August painted such beautifully rich black men — varied in occupation, age, politics …  they’re husbands, fathers, jokesters, musicians.  they love; they hate; they’re vengeful; they’re hopeful. As actors, we get to teach about the complexities of black manhood. We show these sides and facets of black men in an intimate way, in a powerful way, through the vehicle of theatre. We don’t produce plays, we produce people.

JASON: In a good, honest play, there will always be a character that will prompt an audience member to say, “ That’s exactly what I’m feeling and what I’m going through.”  it has saved a lot of lives — the power of storytelling and the power of honesty and truth.  at privilege, that responsibility as an actor to be a representation of an audience member is really fulfilling to the soul. It’s something that you can’t put in your bank account.

ALEX: I love every bit of it. I love the fact that we tell stories. I love coming to work every day. I’m not a doctor, I won’t cure diseases or anything like that, but I do have the responsibility of easing people’s pain in some kind of way. And that’s a privilege. I get to live that kind of life. How blessed am I to get to do that! Name one lesson learned when it comes to your character?

ALEX: Doaker learns that family is the most important seed that you can plant.

 

TIM: Wining Boy reconciles that we got to be really honest, look life square in the face and get on with it.

JASON: I don’t know if Boy Willie learned anything new, but there was definitely confirmation of the way he tries to live.  there’s a lot that we can control, but there is so much more that we cannot. If we lean on the greater power that we know exists, though we cannot see, touch or hear it, we’ll be far more successful than trying to  ght the ghosts ourselves. Award-winning Artistic Director Eileen J. Morris is the director of “ e Piano Lesson.” She holds the distinction of being the only woman in the world to direct nine of the 10 August Wilson Century Cycle plays. In 2018,  e Ensemble  theatre received the August Wilson American Century Cycle Award for producing all 10 plays. “ e Piano Lesson” runs through February 25, 2024, at  the Ensemble  theater, 3535 Main Street. For tickets, call 713-520-0055 or visit Ensemblehouston.com.

Photos by Eisani Apedemak-Saba/ Courtesy of  the Ensemble theatre

October 16, 2023, HOUSTON, TX – Congressional Candidate Amanda Edwards has raised over $1 million in less than 4 months, a substantial sum that helps bolster the frontrunner status of the former At-Large Houston City Council Member in her bid for U.S. Congress. Edwards raised over $433,000 in Q3 of 2023. This strong Q3 report expands on a successful Q2 where Edwards announced just 11 days after declaring her candidacy that she had raised over $600,000. With over $829,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of the September 30th financial reporting period, Edwards proves again that she is the clear frontrunner in the race. “I am beyond grateful for the strong outpouring of support that will help me to win this race and serve the incredible people of the 18th Congressional District,” said Edwards. “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s trajectory, and we need to send servant leaders to Congress who can deliver the results the community deserves. The strong support from our supporters will help us to cultivate an 18th Congressional District where everyone in it can thrive.” Edwards said. “Amanda understands the challenges that the hard-working folks of the 18th Congressional District face because she has never lost sight of who she is or where she comes from; she was born and raised right here in the 18th Congressional District of Houston,” said Kathryn McNiel, spokesperson for Edwards’ campaign. Edwards has been endorsed by Higher Heights PAC, Collective PAC, Krimson PAC, and the Brady PAC. She has also been supported by Beto O’Rourke, among many others. About Amanda: Amanda is a native Houstonian, attorney and former At-Large Houston City Council Member. Amanda is a graduate of Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD. Edwards earned a B.A. from Emory University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Edwards practiced law at Vinson & Elkins LLP and Bracewell LLP before entering public service. Edwards is a life-long member of St. Monica Catholic Church in Acres Homes. For more information, please visit www.edwardsforhouston.com

As September 13th rolls around, we extend our warmest birthday wishes to the creative powerhouse, Tyler Perry, a man whose indomitable spirit and groundbreaking work have left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. With his multifaceted talents as an actor, playwright, screenwriter, producer, and director, Tyler Perry has not only entertained but also inspired audiences worldwide, particularly within the African-American community, where his influence and role have been nothing short of powerful. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1969, Tyler Perry’s journey to stardom was a path riddled with adversity. Raised in a turbulent household, he found refuge in writing, using it as a therapeutic outlet. This period of introspection gave rise to one of his most iconic creations, Madea, a vivacious, no-nonsense grandmother who would later become a beloved figure in Perry’s works, offering a unique blend of humor and profound life lessons. Despite facing numerous challenges, including rejection and financial struggles, Perry’s determination and unwavering belief in his abilities propelled him forward. In 1992, he staged his first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” which, although met with limited success, was a pivotal moment in his career. Unfazed by initial setbacks, Perry continued to hone his craft, and by 1998, he had successfully produced a string of stage plays that showcased his storytelling prowess.

Calling all teenage student-athletes! If you have dreams of playing college soccer and wish to represent an HBCU, the HBCU ID Camp is your golden opportunity. From 8 am to 5 pm on November 11-12, Houston Sports Park will transform into a hub for aspiring male and female soccer players. Coaches from HBCUs across the nation will be present to evaluate, scout, and offer valuable feedback. Moreover, they might even spot the next soccer prodigy to join their collegiate soccer programs. This camp is not just about honing your soccer skills but also a chance to connect with the HBCU soccer community. You’ll learn the ins and outs of what it takes to excel on the field and in the classroom, which is crucial for a college athlete. The HBCU ID Camp is an excellent platform to network with coaches, learn from experienced athletes, and take the first steps toward your college soccer journey. To secure your spot at this incredible event, don’t forget to register [here](insert registration link). Space is limited to 120 participants, so make sure to reserve your place before it’s too late. It’s time to turn your dreams of playing college soccer into a reality.

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