SEASON 22 - 2015
Saturday, April 11, 2015 @ 8:00 p.m.
MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM
By August Wilson
Directed by Russell Andrews
Location: Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Blvd., LA 90028
Cost: $10 suggested donation
2015 PLAY READING SERIES
of the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Play
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is a 1982 play - one of the ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle by August Wilson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright - that chronicles the twentieth century African American experience. The play is set in Chicago in the 1920s (the only play in the group not set in Pittsburgh), and deals with issues of race, art, religion and the historic exploitation of black recording artists by white producers. The play's title refers to a song of the same title by Ma Rainey referring to the Black Bottom dance.
In a Chicago-based recording studio, Ma Rainey's band players, Cutler, Toledo, Slow Drag, and Levee turn up to record a new album of her songs. As they wait for her to arrive they banter, tell stories, joke, philosophise and argue. As the play unfolds it becomes clear that the tension is between the young hot-headed trumpeter Levee, who has dreams of having his own band, and veteran players Cutler and Toledo.
About the Playwright
Born in 1945 to a white father, Frederick August Kittle, and a black mother, Daisy Wilson, August Wilson grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A voracious reader who credits his mother for his love of language, Wilson dropped out of school in the ninth grade, educating himself at libraries. In 1962, Wilson enlisted in the U.S. Army but was discharged a year later. In 1965, he decided to become a writer, buying his first typewriter for twenty dollars. In 1968, he helped to found Pittsburgh’s Black Horizons on the Hill Theater, with the goal of “politicizing the community.” Wilson was heavily involved with the Civil Rights movement during this time and described himself as a “Black Nationalist.” After he moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1978, Wilson’s career began to gather steam. Following the oft-given advice to write what you know, Wilson created characters that spoke like people he knew in black neighborhoods of Pittsburgh.
Partly inspired by the plays of Amiri Baraka, who warned black writers to keep their characters faithful to the black experience, Wilson finished the first version of the play in 1981 and had it accepted by the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference in the summer of 1982. In 1985, the play opened on Broadway at the Cort Theater, and it subsequently captured a slew of awards including the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for best American play. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom helped to cement his reputation as an important American playwright.
Wilson wrote his first play, Jitney, in 1979. In 1987, Fences earned him a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award. Wilson won another Pulitzer Prize in 1990, for The Piano Lesson. In 1996, Seven Guitars premiered on the Broadway stage, followed by King Hedley II in 2001 and Gem of the Ocean in 2004. Wilson died on October 2, 2005, in Seattle, Washington.
About the Director
A native of Houston, TX, Mr. Andrews is the founding member and producing artistic director of the multi-award winning stage company, Stagewalkers. With a career that spans nearly 25 years, he’s directed and performed in the U.S. and the U.K. where on the London Stages “intense” and “passionate” were commonly associated with his work. After his critically-acclaimed performances as 'Willie' in The Alley Theatre’s Productions of Miss Evers' Boys and the explosive, yet tragically flawed, horn player, ‘Levee’, in August Wilson's Ma' Rainey's Black Bottom, Russell moved to Washington, D.C. to study Shakespeare at The Folger Theatre which led to his relocation to New York City where he continued to study and became a regular face on the regional and Off-Broadway theatre circuit. Considered a Wilson “hired gun,” he originated and received rave reviews as ‘Mister’ in the world premier of King Hedley II and ‘Youngblood’ in Jitney (winner of London’s 2002 Olivier Award).
Russell formed StageWalkers Productions in 2004 and in its short, multi-award winning existence, that includes LA's highly coveted LA Ovation Award, it has been recognized as one of LA's premiere stage companies. Russell lives in Los Angeles with his wife, writer Katrina Andrews and their two children, Anya and Kai.
His co-starring film credits include the soon to be released Straight Outta’ Compton, Arun Vir’s RESET, The In-Laws (with Michael Douglas) The Punisher (with John Travolta) and Hannelle Culpepper's (A Single Rose) TV appearances list guest star and recurring roles in The Defenders, Grey’s Anatomy, Harry's Law, The Nine, Boston Legal, CSI: Miami, Bernie Mac and Numb3rs.
Director / Levee
Technical Director (Lights)