The piano in August Wilson’s 1990 Pulitzer-prize winning play “The Piano Lesson” (now revived at the Signature Theatre in New York) doesn’t speak but evokes great emotion from its supporting actors. An heirloom that siblings fight over in 1936 Pittsburgh (the brother wants to sell it to buy the land his ancestors worked on as slaves, the sister wants to keep it as a way to preserve the family’s legacy), the piano shows the carved faces of their great-grandfather’s wife and son during the days of their enslavement in Georgia. It symbolizes this African-American family’s dilemma about a complicated legacy and what to do with it.
Sculptor Vinnie Bagwell of Yonkers, NY was hired to create the relief sculpture for the stage. Equally impressive is the installation of the sculpture onto the piano, by Joe Ruggiero of Sculpture House Casting. As the director Ruben Santiago-Hudson (who won a Tony Award for his performance in Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” in 1996) said upon seeing the completed piano during rehearsals, “Now you see why, what he was willing to die for – that’s his whole family.” Great sculpture. Great piano. Great play.