MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM to Host Pre-Show Conversations at the Taper

Center Theatre Group's Community Conversations for August Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" will feature two pre-show panel discussions on September 21 and 30 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at The Music Center Annex building, 601 W. Temple Street, in rehearsal room "A."

On September 21, the panel "The Sound and the Soul: Authenticity and Commerce in African American Music" will feature Josh Kun, Associate Professor of Communication and Director of The Popular Music Project at USC Annenberg's Norman Lear Center; Ronald C. McCurdy, Professor of Music at the USC Thornton School of Music; and Shana L. Redmond, UCLA Associate Professor of Musicology and African American Studies and co- editor for "Music of the African Diaspora" with University of California Press.

On September 30, the panel "From Bessie to Beyoncé: Black Women, Independence and Artistic Identity" features Ina Coleman, gender equity consultant and former Managing Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation; Uri McMillan, UCLA Associate Professor, cultural historian and author ("Embodied Avatars: Genealogies of Black Feminist Art and Performance"); Dominique Morisseau, playwright and actress, story editor on Showtime's "Shameless," winner of the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, two NAACP Image Awards, and the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama, among others; and Ani Zonneveld, Grammy Award-winning songwriter and Founder of Muslims for Progressive Values.

The moderator for both panels will be Khanisha Foster.

August Wilson's hard-hitting "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" plays through October 16, 2016, at the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum. "Ma Rainey..." is part of Wilson's American Century Cycle of 10 plays chronicling African American experience in 20th Century USA.

Phylicia Rashad, who direcTEd Wilson's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" at the Taper in 2013, directs this groundbreaking play which depicts the racism and exploitation in the music industry through a 1927 recording session in Chicago with a legendary blues singer. "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is inspired by the real-life Gertrude "Ma" Rainey.

Center Theatre Group has previously presented eight of August Wilson's plays: "Jitney" and the Tony Award-nominated plays "King Hedley II," "Gem of the Ocean," "Radio Golf" and "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" at the Taper, the Tony Award-nominated play "Seven Guitars" at the Ahmanson Theatre, and the Tony Award-nominated plays "Two Trains Running" and "The Piano Lesson" (1990 Pulitzer Prize) at the Doolittle Theatre in HollywooD. Wilson's "Fences" won both the 1987 Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award.

Center Theatre Group, one of the nation's preeminent arts and cultural organizations, is Los Angeles' leading nonprofit theatre company, programming seasons at the 736-seat Mark Taper Forum and 1600 to 2000-seat Ahmanson Theatre at The Music Center in Downtown Los Angeles, and the 317-seat Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. In addition to presenting and producing the broadest range of theatrical entertainment in the country, Center Theatre Group is one of the nation's leading producers of ambitious new works through commissions and world premiere productions and a leader in interactive community engagement and education programs that reach across generations, demographics and circumstance to serve Los Angeles.

RSVPs for the Community Conversations are encouraged; contact

Tickets for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" are available by calling (213) 628-2772 or online at Tickets range from $25 - $85 (ticket prices are subject to change). The Mark Taper Forum is located at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012.

Photo Credit: Craig Schwartz

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