Lessons in Temperament

Written and Performed by James Smith, Directed and Developed by Mitchell Cushman

“A memoir of minds gone out of tune” – The New York Times


“enlightening… enthralling… an elegant and melancholy metaphor for time.”
– The National Post 

The story of four neurodiverse brothers, told through a theatrical escape into the art and science of piano tuning. It is impossible to perfectly tune a piano – something that musician and theatre-maker James Smith knows all too well. A few years ago James taught himself how to tune pianos as an additional source of income between gigs. Through pursuing this work, he discovered something even more valuable – the perfect metaphor through which to process the mental complexities of his family. Between James and his brothers, they have had life-long journeys with OCD, autism, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Throughout the piece, James shares the story of his family, while getting the piano in front of him beautifully and imperfectly in tune.

Catch this award-winning play’s return to the stage,  on a five stop provincial tour, in partnership with “Ontario Presents”. Can’t wait, or can’t get to these cities? Our feature film adaptation of Lessons in Temperament is available to stream for free online through TVO.


2024 tour dates

January 23rd – 28th
Grand Theatre
Kingston, ON

February 1st
FirstOntario Performing Arts
St. Catherines, ON

February 3rd & 4th
Old Town Hall Theatre
Waterford, ON

February 6th 2024
The Registry Theatre
Kitchener, ON

February 8th – 10th
The Rose Theatre
Brampton, ON

Production History

2016 SummerWorks Festival
*Recipient of the Festival Prize for Production

2017 Outside the March Run

2017 Off-Broadway Run at New York’s Signature Theater
(Presented by Soulpepper Theatre)

Wherever There is a Piano In Need of Tuning

a memoir of minds gone out of tune

The New York Times

Lessons In Temperament

The New York Times

intimate, deeply felt and poignant… wise and heartfelt lessons for us all.

NOW Magazine

Lessons In Temperament

NOW Magazine

Do yourself a favour and experience this show.

Mooney on Theatre

Lessons In Temperament

Mooney on Theatre

Lessons In Temperament

Creative Team

Writer and Performer – James Smith

Director – Mitchell Cushman 

Production Designer – Nick Blais 

Stage Manager – Farnoosh Talebpour





Awards & Accolades

  • Prize for Production – The SummerWorks Festival (2016)
  • Prize for Direction (Honourable Mention), Mitchell Cushman – The SummerWorks Festival (2016)
  • Outstanding Production – NOW Magazine (SummerWorks, 2016)
  • Outstanding New Play – NOW Magazine (SummerWorks, 2016)
  • Outstanding Direction – NOW Magazine (SummerWorks, 2016)
  • SummerWorks Highlight – Torontoist (2016)