As part of its 30th Anniversary Season celebration, the Huntington Theatre Company brings the cast of August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom to the BU Theatre / Avenue of the Arts. Liesl Tommy, director of the Huntington's acclaimed 2011 production of Ruined, helms the production. The ensemble features "ER" cast member Yvette Freeman as the legendary blues singer Ma Rainey and local favorite Jason Bowen (Ruined, A Civil War Christmas at the Huntington) as Levee.
In the play, a quartet of blues musicians gather in a run-down 1920s Chicago studio waiting for legendary blues singer Ma Rainey to arrive to record new sides of her old favorites. Young, hotheaded trumpeter Levee aspires to a better life for himself and sees the emerging form of the blues as his ticket to fame and fortune. When he clashes with veteran musicians Toledo and Cutler and Ma Rainey spars with her white music producers, generational and racial tensions explode in the drama.
"Over its 30-year history, the Huntington has not only provided Boston with outstanding theatre, but also demonstrated a passionate commitment to bringing its world-class offerings into this city's neighborhoods," says Boston Mayor, the Honorable Thomas M. Menino. "I congratulate the Huntington on celebrating its completion of August Wilson's Century Cycle with this exciting event at Hibernian Hall, one of our city's most treasured cultural venues."
Huntington Managing Director Michael Maso adds, "Here at the Huntington, we have had the honor of seeing August Wilson's stories come to life on our stage. We've been privileged to share those stories with all of Boston and are excited to make our debut at Hibernian Hall."
The production runs thought April 8, 2012. Tickets and more information are available at huntingtontheatre.org/maraineys. With the production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, the Huntington completes its mounting of August Wilson's Century Cycle, comprised of one play about the African-American experience in each decade of the 20th century. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was Wilson's first play, written (along with Fences) before he established his relationship with the Huntington. Beginning in 1986 with Joe Turner's Come and Gone, the Huntington and Boston audiences enjoyed a special relationship with Wilson who came to consider the Huntington an artistic home. Here, he mounted early productions of seven of his Cycles plays before their New York productions.
"I have a long and valued relationship with the Huntington. They have contributed enormously to my development as a playwright, and I guard that relationship jealously," Wilson remarked in 2004.
The full cast includes: Joniece Abbott-Pratt (Dussie Mae): Gem of the Ocean (Hartford Stage), The Piano Lesson (Yale Rep); Corey Allen (Sylvester): A Midsummer Night's Dream (Great River Shakespeare Festival), The Fall of Heaven (The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis); Jason Bowen (Levee): Ruined, Prelude to a Kiss, and A Civil War Christmas (Huntington Theatre Company), The Merry Wives of Windsor and Twelfth Night (Actors' Shakespeare Project), Thomas Derrah (Sturdyvant): Red (SpeakEasy Stage Company), End Game (American Repertory Theater); Yvette Freeman (Ma Rainey): NBC's "ER" for all fifteen seasons (Nurse Haleh Adams); Dinah Was (Long Beach InterNational Theatre), Ain't Misbehavin' (first national tour); Will LeBow (Irvin): Bus Stop, The Cherry Orchard, and Sonia Flew (Huntington Theatre Company), Full Circle and The Merchant of Venice (American Repertory Theater); Timothy J. Smith (Policeman): Candide and Prelude to a Kiss (Huntington Theatre Company), Nine (SpeakEasy Stage Company); G. Valmont Thomas (Cutler): Radio Golf (Syracuse Stage), She Loves Me (Angus Bowmer Theatre); Glenn Turner (Slow Drag): A Chorus Line (Broadway), Langston in Harlem (Urban Stages); and Charles Weldon (Toledo): To Kill a Mockingbird (Denver Center Theatre Company), The Picture Box (The Negro Ensemble Company).