LaTanya Richardson Jackson, director of Broadway's revival of The Piano Lesson, joined Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show to talk about the production currently playing its 17-week engagement at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Previews began September 19 for the show which opened October 13. Watch the appearance above.
Fallon asked Jackson if she likes knowing who's in the audience at a performance. The director responded, "You know, I don't really care. You're supposed to be so invested in the moment, in the truth of what you're doing—which is why I'm a director." Jackson goes on to say explain why caring about that can quickly spell trouble for an actor.
Along with sharing some insights into her marriage to Samuel L. Jackson, who she's currently directing in The Piano Lesson, Jackson also talked about her approach to the August Wilson play. She described the play for Fallon as being, "about a brother and a sister who are locked in this battle of legacy versus a stake in the American Dream." She further shares that she hopes audiences will leave trying to decide whose side they are on.
When Fallon spotlights that Jackson is the first female director to direct an August Wilson play on Broadway, the director responds, "For shame, for shame, yes. For shame. You know, we're still in a struggle in this country with women, for us to own ourselves. And that's loaded, so yes, for us to own our bodies and own ourselves. So, it's sad that men have been unwilling to share. But you know what's getting ready to happen? We're gonna turn this thing around, and you're gonna have to share or move over." The current revival of The Piano Lesson is the 14th Broadway production of an August Wilson work. She has also starred in three Broadway productions, including playing Bertha Holly in the 2009 revival of Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone.
Starring alongside Samuel L. Jackson are John David Washington, Danielle Brooks, Trai Byers, Ray Fisher, April Matthis, Michael Potts, Nadia Daniel, and Jurnee Swan. Shirine Babb, Charles Browning, Peter Jay Fernandez, Sharina Martin, Warner Miller, Doron JePaul Mitchell, and Kim Sullivan serve as understudies.
Set in Pittsburgh's Hill District in 1936, The Piano Lesson follows a brother and sister who are embroiled in a battle over a family heirloom piano carved with the faces of their ancestors. It is the fourth play in Wilson's Century Cycle, which explores the Black experience in every decade of the 20th century; other works in the cycle include Fences, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, and Jitney, among others.
The creative team also includes Tony-winning music director Jason Michael Webb, who composed new music for the revival, Tony-winning set designer Beowulf Boritt, Tony-nominated costume designer Toni-Leslie James, Tony-nominated lighting designer Japhy Weideman, Tony-winning sound designer Scott Lehrer, Drama Desk-nominated designer Cookie Jordan, Tony-winning projection designer Jeff Snug, and choreographer Otis Sallid. Casting is by Calleri, Jensen, Davis, and general management is by Foresight Theatrical.