Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe presents ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’
Production continues WBTT’s commitment to produce every play by August Wilson; director Chuck Smith returns to take the reins for the show
SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe continues its 2015-2016 season with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which runs January 13 – February 20. With this production, WBTT continues its commitment to produce every play by Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning playwright August Wilson. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is one of the 10 plays in Wilson’s “Century Cycle,” examining 20th century African American life.
This production is set in 1927 in Chicago, Ill. The fiery blues legend Gertrude “Ma” Rainey is ready to record her signature songs. Inside the cramped studio, she squares off against a battling quartet of musicians and a tight-fisted white producer. This gripping play with music highlights a time in American history when even the most renowned black singer of her day had to fight racism for the respect she deserved. In Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, the Jazz Age is in full swing and it’s a moment as full of possibility as it is risk for those striving to achieve the American side of being African American.
WBTT founder and artistic director Nate Jacobs is thrilled to bring this production to Sarasota. “August Wilson was a key figure in chronicling the African American experience in the 20th century through literature and theatre,” said Jacobs. ”The themes explored in this production – race, art, religion and the historic exploitation of black recording artists by white producers and others in the entertainment business – are important to understand in examining the African American experience in the studio, on-stage … and beyond. We look forward to sharing this story with audiences in Sarasota.”
Cast members include: Tarra Conner jones (Ma Rainey), Robert Douglas (Levee), Terry Wells (Sturdyvant), Emerald Rose Sullivan (Dussie Mae), Earley Dean (Sylvester), David Abolafia (Policeman), Stephen Emery (Irvin), Henri Watkins (Toledo), Kenny Dozier (Cutler) and Patric Robinson (Slow Drag).
Director Chuck Smith, who returns to WBTT after directing last year’s production of Knock Me A Kiss, is Goodman Theatre’s Resident Director, where he has directed over 20 productions and serves on the Board of Trustees. He was a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he served as artistic director for four seasons and directed the Jeff Award-nominated Suspenders and the Jeff Award-winning musical Po. His directorial credits are substantial and include the Chicago and New York premieres of Knock Me A Kiss and the National Black Theatre Festival production of the same show, for which he was awarded the 2011 Lloyd Richards Directing Award.
“August Wilson is, no doubt, the most important playwright of our time, writing a play depicting African-American life in each decade of the twentieth century,” said Smith. “Wilson’s ‘Century Cycle’ is historic in the way it depicts a segment of our community over 100 years and really brings it to life. I am proud to have worked with August Wilson on this production in Chicago in 1997 – it was my first theatrical success at the Goodman.”
Production stage manager is Juanita Munford, costume designer is Cristy Owen, scenic design is Michael Newtown-Brown, lighting design by Eric Furbish, property master is Annette Breazeale, and fight choreographer is Jordan Sobel.
Performances, which take place at the WBTT theater (1646 10th Way, Sarasota) are 8pm Tuesday-Saturday with 2pm matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $38/adults, $27 students or active military with valid ID. Call the Box Office (941-366-1505) or go to westcoastblacktheatre.org.
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe:
The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. is the only professional black theater company on Florida’s West Coast. The mission is to produce plays that promote and celebrate the African-American experience, attract diverse audiences, while using its productions as a vehicle for supporting African-American artists and building the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information on WBTT, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call (941) 366-1505.