Huntington Theatre Co Presents MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM Reading, 2/23


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 Roxbury's Hibernian Hall to perform a reading of the play on Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 7pm.

The reading is free and open to the public, but an RSVP at is encouraged, as seating is limited. 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.

The reading marks the continuation of a longstanding tradition of the Huntington bringing its work beyond its homes on the Avenue of the Arts and in the South End to Boston's neighborhoods and communities, including past events at the Strand Theatre (Breath, Boom; 2003) and Roxbury Community College (Gem of the Ocean, 2004; Radio Golf, 2006; Fences, 2009).

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 Huntington's full production of the play will run March 9 – April 8 at the BU Theatre / Avenue of the Arts. Tickets and more information are available at
With the upcoming 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.

Hibernian Hall is located at 184 Dudley Street, Roxbury.

Find more information on the event at

The 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).

August Wilson (playwright) authored Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II, and Radio Golf. These works explore the heritage and experience of African-Americans decade-by-decade over the course of the 20th century. Mr. Wilson's plays have been produced at regional theatres across the country and all over the world, as well as on Broadway. Mr. Wilson's works garnered many awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, a Tony Award, Great Britain's Olivier Award, and eight New York Drama Critics Circle Awards. He was posthumously inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 2007. Mr. Wilson was born and raised in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and lived in Seattle, Washington at the time of his death.

Liesl Tommy (director) previously directed Ruined for the Huntington Theatre Company/Berkeley Repertory Theatre/La Jolla Playhouse. Other credits include Peggy Pickett Sees the Face of God by Roland Schimmelpfennig (world premiere, Luminato Festival/Volcano Theatre); Ruined by Lynn Nottage (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Eclipsed by Danai Gurira (world premiere, Yale Repertory Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, McCarter Theatre); and Angela's Mixtape by Eisa Davis (world premiere, Synchronicity Performance Group, New Georges). She was awarded the NEA/TCG Directors Grant and the New York Theatre Workshop Casting/Directing Fellowship and is a New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect. She has also been a guest director and teacher at The Juilliard School, Trinity Rep/Brown University's MFA Directing and Acting Program, and NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. She is a graduate of Newton North High School and a native of Cape Town, South Africa.

Since its founding in 1982, the Huntington Theatre Company has developed into Boston's leading theatre company. Bringing together superb local and national talent, the Huntington produces a mix of groundbreaking new works and classics made current. Led by Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso, the Huntington creates award-winning productions, runs nationally renowned programs in education and new play development, and serves the local theatre community through its operation of the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. The Huntington is in residence at Boston University. For more information, visit

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