2016 Dolores Wilber

147 Pianos
a film by Dolores Wilber

Screening + talk Thursday 20 October, 10PM @ Passos Manuel


‘147 Pianos’ is a film of a single performance in October 2013 at Lukas Piano Service on Chicago’s west side where close to 200 musicians, pros and amateurs, adults and children, played piano scores from Chopsticks to Chopin all together, all at once. The music included Chopsticks/Euphemia Allen, Bethena/Scott Joplin, Gymnopedie #1/Erik Satie, Scherzo No. 3/Chopin and original experimental scores for the production.

The film intertwines interviews with the owners, along with the concert of the `as is’ pianos playing simultaneously by the invited public. 

Ed Lisauskas and Sylvester Czajkowski have worked together for decades, fixing and tuning pianos, in a dusty warehouse full of hundreds of rickety but mostly living pianos with a few treasures they have refurbished. Treasures of information about the history of pianos, they tell a Chicago story with a dusty warehouse full of over 150 rickety but living treasures they have refurbished over the last 40 years. They struggle to maintain their lifelong business threatened with digital media and the need for portability in our contemporary world. 

Their work, this warehouse and this performance of 147 Pianos hold some of that history of what Chicago once was, even as we watch what it becomes.


The performance was directed and produced by Dolores Wilber, Composer and Sound Director Rob Steel, Cinematographer Pete Biagi, and Producer Dana Hodgdon. It was supported by DePaul University Bluelight grant and the help of fifty faculty and students who helped make this film possible.


“Everything I do is based in my life growing up in Chicago. Where I lived for my first 18 years you were identified as what parish and what park you were from, as well as what your ethnicity was.  The city used to be a mixture of residential and light manufacturing with some heavy manufacturing. That blend of culture, family and work life has vastly eroded.”

Dolores Wilber looks for ways to work with other people to make things together. How we live, work, abide and survive occupy her attention. Performance, film and installation are primary consequences. The outcomes are formal, and often baroque, exaggerated and dramatic, aiming for intimacy and recognition. Creating a setting to have an experience with other people together is essential to her work. Live performance is transformative in a way that mediated experiences can rarely attain. More enduring forms in film and print are essential to extend beyond the limits of the immediate audience.  Intense research, site specificity, and multimedia activated by live interaction and collaboration are the methodology; culture, memory, the body, and connections to others are the content. She interrogates what is right rather than what is wrong.

A Chicago artist who has exhibited widely and has received support with numerous grants and awards, she is a professor and the Director of  the School of Design at DePaul University.