The company members are thrilled to have the support of the Gallo Center. They originally thought they would stage a show at King-Kennedy Memorial Center in Modesto and were surprised when Gallo Center Executive Director Lynn Dickerson offered the center.
The Gallo Center is fronting the money for Sankofa's sets and costumes and will split the profits with the group from the Feb. 1-3 performances.
The center has offered similar deals to Prospect, Modesto Performing Arts and California State University, Stanislaus.
"We're really proud of this association," Dickerson said, adding that it helps her show the community that the Gallo Center is not just for rich, older whites, as many inaccurately assume.
The budget for the show is $6,000. Sets are being constructed by Jack Souza, the white artistic director at Modesto's Prospect Theater Project.
"It will be somewhat in between full realism and minimal," said Johnson. "It includes a parlor, kitchen and a staircase going to the second floor."
The backstage crew will not be black, but Sankofa actors hopes to recruit and train black crews for future productions.
Sankofa Theater Company members hope people of all races will attend their shows and learn more about black culture and its rich history. "We're more than BET reality shows," Ervin said.
For information about Sankofa Theater Company, call Ervin at Project Uplift at (209) 882-1479.
ABOUT THE PLAY
August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson" is the story of an African-American family's conflict over its ancestral heritage. The 1990 play, one of the most popular in Wilson's cycle of 10 plays detailing the black experience in the 20th century, revolves around an antique piano dating from the time of slavery.
The action takes place in Pittsburgh in 1936 at the house of a family that has migrated from Mississippi. The piano, which has a family history carved into its wood panels, is now owned by an adult brother and sister who are descendants of the original craftsman.
The brother, Boy Willie, wants to sell the valuable piano and buy some land -- the same Mississippi land that his family had worked as slaves -- to start his own farm. His sister, Bernice, feels the instrument contains too much family legacy to let it go.