Creating the Haunted Piano for The Piano Lesson at Syracuse Stage

by Michael Eddy

In this video, Mary Houston, Head of the Prop Department at Syracuse Stage talks about the making of the haunted piano prop used in August Wilson's The Piano Lesson. Learn more about this prop in the March issue of Stage Directions magazine.

Houston describes the piano for The Piano Lesson as one of the most challenging props she and her team have handled. "It's also one of my favorite props that I've worked on," says Houston. "I love the team of people that contributed to making it happen. It started with Bill Bloodgood, the show's set designer who designed the look of the piano and the carvings that showed the history. The extra challenge about this one was that the director wanted the piano downstage left, right in front of the audience where you could partially see behind the wall. Most people place the piano upstage in the middle so that you can have your tricks behind a wall. 

Members of the team that made it all work, included prop artisan, Lisa Letson painted the piano. I completely give the credit for designing the mechanism to my prop carpenter at the time, Tammy Goetsch. She devised this series of strings for the keys that ran up under the piano, to some fabricated levers on the back of the piano. When the stage crew depressed them, would pull the keys on the piano down.

You can read the rest of the story in the March issue of Stage Directions magazine.