VIDEO | "Berta, Berta" from "The Piano Lesson" Live in The Greene Space

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Greene Space presented a reading of August Wilson's The Piano Lesson on Sept. 9, 2013 — part of our historic festival recording all 10 plays in Wilson's American Century Cycle. The plays in the decade-by-decade cycle are being presented in the order in which they premiered.

Setting the Scene

A group of men is gathered around the kitchen table of a Pittsburgh home in 1936. They banter as they recollect their days down South, where they’d once worked on Parchman Prison Farm.

Then the men — Boy Willie, Lymon, Doaker and Wining Boy — break out into an impromptu performance of a prison song called "Berta, Berta," learned from their days on Parchman. First they hum, then voices swell, and soon hands are clapping and feet stomping in an a capella rendition of the song. They sing of unrequited love, of a woman named Berta who shouldn’t wait on her man, who’s still working on Parchman and may not want her when he’s free.

Below, watch actors James A. Williams, Brandon Dirden, Jason Dirden and Chuck Cooper perform the song:


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