‘Piano Lesson’ to honor history, Tapley

Xavier Smith • Feb 26, 2018 at 6:33 PM

Centerstage Theatre Co. will return next month with a rendition of August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson,” and will look to honor Wilson and a prominent figure in the group’s short history.

“The Piano Lesson” is play about family legacy and heritage. The story features a brother and sister at odds about the future of a family piano that has historical significance to the family.

Kenny Dozier will play Boy Willie and Brittany Mask will portray Berniece. The production will take place March 9-11 and March 16-18 at Market Street Community Center.

“I felt like it was the perfect place to have this production because of the historical significance of that building. There’s a lot of history there,” said Centerstate cofounder Mitchell Vantrease, who will also direct the production.

Vantrease said “The Piano Lesson” is the group’s ode to Black History Month, as the group will honor Wilson and his contribution to theatre. Wilson, winner of multiple Pulitzer Prize awards, was the first African-American to have a theatre named after him or her on Broadway in New York City.

Vantrease said the production would feature new technical techniques that will capture supernatural elements of “The Piano Lesson,” marking continued growth in the group’s technical elements and overall production.

The production will also honor Centerstage actor Thomas Tapley, who played several roles throughout the group’s short history. Tapley was set to portray Boy Willie before his death earlier this month.

Tapley starred in several Centerstage productions, including “Fences,” “The Odd Couple,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and most recently as Martin Luther King Jr. in the play, “The Meeting.”

Tapley also worked as assistant director for “Father of the Bride,” and as a mentor to the child actors in “Charlotte’s Web.”

Vantrease said Tapley was more than just another cast member, and showed extreme promise as an actor.

“Tap was the epitome of what Centerstage was all about,” Vantrease said. “He came to us with no experience, but was really talented.”

Vantrease said Tapley’s promise shined when he auditioned for roles with The Nashville Repertory Theatre and received three callbacks.

“That doesn’t just happen for someone who has only been in three productions his entire life. I fully believe he was well on his way in this industry,” Vantrease said.

“The Piano Lesson” crew rehearsed with Tapley for about six weeks before his death, which caused a pushback in the opening date.

“It’s been tough hearing someone else deliver the lines that he did, but we’ve all been there for one another and we’ve gotten tighter because of it,” Vantrease said. “Thomas was extremely talented. We’re going to do our best to honor him.”

Showtimes for Fridays and Saturdays are 7:30 p.m., and 2 p.m. on Sundays.

Tickets available at brownpapertickets.com, or Iddy & Oscar's on the Lebanon Square. Group rates are also available.

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