The Piano Lesson

by August Wilson

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Wilson was inspired to write The Piano Lesson by Romare Bearden’s painting Piano Lesson. Examine the painting, then consider the symbolism of the piano in the play, particularly the carvings on it. Compare and contrast the painting and the play in terms of their representation of art in African-American life.

Research the Great Depression and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1930s America, then, using your research, consider Wilson’s representations of poverty and opportunity in The Piano Lesson.

Research the Great Migration of southern African- Americans to the urban North. Then, using your research, discuss Wilson’s speculation about what might have happened if more African- Americans had stayed on in the South and found a viable way to work the land. Do you think this might have been possible, and what kinds of social changes would have to have taken place to make this work?

Why is Sutter’s ghost haunting the Charles family, and how convincing is its unseen presence on-stage?

Consider one or more of the following examples of Wilson’s use of language in The Piano Lesson and, using examples, demonstrate how it contributes to the power and believability of the play: black dialect, metaphor, lyricism.

Using examples from the text, identify what you believe is the play’s central message and consider its importance today.

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