Production continues WBTT’s commitment to produce every play by August Wilson; renowned director Chuck Smith returns to take the reins for the show

SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe continues its 2016-2017 season with The Piano Lesson, which runs January 11 – February 18, 2017. With this production, WBTT continues its commitment to produce every play by Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning playwright August Wilson. The Piano Lesson is one of the 10 plays in Wilson’s “American Century Cycle,” which examines 20th century African American life.

It’s the Depression era and an impoverished black family argues over an heirloom piano that their enslaved grandfather carved with figures representing their rich history. Should they honor their past by keeping it or improve their economic future by selling it? This Pulitzer Prize-winning drama – considered one of Wilson’s most powerful and eloquent plays – explores the universal issues of family, history, and survival. 

WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs is thrilled to bring this production back to Sarasota after a 12-year hiatus. “This play asks the question, ‘Do we discard our family heritage or do we cherish and embrace it?’” said WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs. “I think this is a very timely question for all people to consider because if you don’t know where you’re from, you won’t know where you’re going. We look forward to sharing this story again with audiences in Sarasota.”

Cast members include: Earley Dean (Boy Willie), Henri Watkins (Doaker), Michael Mendez (Lymon), Noelle Strong (Berniece), Jireh Pierre (Maretha), Kenny Dozier (Avery), Patric Robinson (Wining Boy) and Emerald Rose Sullivan (Grace).

Director Chuck Smith is a Resident Director at WBTT; he has previously directed Knock Me A Kiss two seasons ago and last season’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Smith is Goodman Theatre’s Resident Director, where he has directed over 20 productions and serves on the theatre’s Board of Trustees. He was a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he served as artistic director for four seasons and directed the Jeff Award-nominated Suspenders and the Jeff Award-winning musical Po. His directorial credits are substantial and include the Chicago and New York premieres of Knock Me A Kiss and the National Black Theatre Festival production of the same show, for which he was awarded the 2011 Lloyd Richards Directing Award.

“August Wilson is, no doubt, the most important playwright of our time, writing a play depicting African-American life in each decade of the twentieth century,” said Smith. “Wilson’s ‘American Century Cycle’ is historic in the way it depicts a segment of our community over 100 years and really brings it to life.”

Production stage manager is Juanita Munford, production manager is James E. Dodge II, costume designer is Cristy Owen, scenic designer is Michael Newtown-Brown, lighting design by Michael Pasquini, sound engineer is Patrick Russini, and property master is Annette Breazeale.

Performances, which take place at the WBTT theater (1646 10th Way, Sarasota) are 8pm Tuesday-Saturday, with 2pm matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $39.50/adults, $22/students and active military with valid ID. Call the Box Office (941-366-1505) or go to

About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe:

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. is the only professional black theater company on Florida’s West Coast. The mission is to produce plays that promote and celebrate the African-American experience, attract diverse audiences, while using its productions as a vehicle for supporting African-American artists and building the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information on WBTT, visit the website at or call (941) 366-1505.