Artists in Conversation is a weekly column running Wednesdays on QuadCities.com.

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Kermit Thomas is a first time director at the helm of August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson,” winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, which opens  this weekend at Playcrafter’s Barn Theatre.
It is 1936, and Boy Willie arrives in Pittsburgh from the South in a battered truck loaded with watermelons to sell. He has an opportunity to buy some land down home, but he has to come up with the money right quick. He wants to sell an old piano that has been in his family for Meet Kermit Thomas Of Playcrafters' 'The Piano Lesson', Our Artist In Conversationgenerations, but he shares ownership with his sister and it sits in her living room. She has already rejected several offers because the antique piano is covered with incredible carvings detailing the family’s rise from slavery. Boy Willie tries to persuade his stubborn sister that the past is past, but she is more formidable than he anticipated.
1. What’s it like to be at the helm of an important piece like “The Piano Lesson?”
It is an amazing experience. I am a huge August Wilson fan. It is truly an honor to have the opportunity to be a part of such a distinguished production. This is my first time directing. I love a challenge and this is truly one. But I have a great producer and a talented cast. That makes life easier.
2. Why is this piece perfect for this moment?
With so much going on in the world. It really takes us back to the basics. The basics of family; though family does not always get along they always come back to help in time of turmoil. The story touches on “What do you do with your legacy, and how do you best put it to use?”
Meet Kermit Thomas Of Playcrafters' 'The Piano Lesson', Our Artist In ConversationDenzel Washington is planning a new film adaptation for Netflix with Samuel L. Jackson and John David Washington. Filming is expected to begin Summer 2021 in Pittsburgh.
3. I imagine it’s been an absolute joy to work with this company of artists.
It has been amazing working with these artist. Several are veterans. I am as well. So after serving this country, it is great to continue to follow your passion and bring this epic play to life. It is hard work and long hours but well worth it.
4. Are you hoping this project with helping open the theatre community up to more work for BIPOC artists?
Oh absolutely, the strength shown in the play is just amazing. Berniece is really a strong character but she can can resonate with all women on balancing life and finding yourself. You can desire a man but not need him to make you complete.  The stories are amazing on how this family grows and learns to come together.
I believe this a trajectory of many more ethnic works that will increase work for BIPOC artists. I also would like to see more BIPOC artists join some theatre networks as board members, set designer, sound designers etc. This will give them a seat at the table to assist in  the Meet Kermit Thomas Of Playcrafters' 'The Piano Lesson', Our Artist In Conversationdecisions on which shows to bring to the Q-C.
5. What are some of your favorite pieces? Any other bucket list shows?
August Wilsons Century Cycle comes to mind. It is a collection of 10 plays that span across decades to document the African American experience.
“A Woman Called Truth” is just amazing. I actually had an opportunity to have a role in this show in 2015. Just amazing.
“The Glass Menagerie” by Tennessee Williams. I would love to direct this show in the future.
6. What’s next for you?
I am current running for US Congress. So I have to put theater and acting on the side for now. But it will always be a love of mine.
August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson runs at the Playcrafters Barn Theatre July 16 through 24, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Admission is $13-15, and more information and tickets are available by calling (309)762-0330 or visiting Playcrafters.com.
Meet Kermit Thomas Of Playcrafters' 'The Piano Lesson', Our Artist In Conversation
Tristan Layne Tapscott has been dubbed the “Quad Cities’ P.T. Barnum” and although the person who initially said it meant it as an insult, he happily accepts the title.
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