MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM, Starring Arnetia Walker, to Launch Two River Theater's 2016-17 Season

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, launches its 2016/17 Season with an extended four-week run of August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is the fourth play in Wilson's American Century Cycle produced by Two River, following Jitney, Two Trains Running and Seven Guitars.

Performances will begin in Two River's Rechnitz Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, on Saturday, September 10 and continue through Sunday, October 9. The opening night performance is Friday, September 16 at 8pm. Tickets are available from 732.345.1400 or The lead production sponsor is Riverview Medical Center and the media partner is WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM.

Wilson's incendiary drama, set in the 1920s, takes audiences into the world of legendary singer Ma Rainey (the real-life "Mother of the Blues") as she lays down tracks with her band in a Chicago recording studio. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom will be directed by actor, playwright, and director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who won a Tony Award for his performance in the Broadway production of Seven Guitars. At Two River, he has directed August Wilson's Jitney and Two Trains Running and his own world-premiere play, Your Blues Ain't Sweet Like Mine. His other recent directing credits include two world premieres by Dominique Morisseau: Skeleton Crew at the Atlantic Theater Company and Paradise Blue at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. He won an Obie Award and critical acclaim for his solo show Lackawanna Blues, and his screenplay for the HBO adaptation received the Humanitas Prize, Christopher Award, National Board of Review Honors, and NAACP Image Award; and Emmy, Golden Globe, and Writers Guild of America nominations.

The cast, previously announced, includes Chanté Adams (Dussie May), Harvy Blanks (Slow Drag), Brian D. Coats (Toledo), Michael Cumpsty (Irvin), Brandon J. Dirden (Levee), Bob Mackasek (Policeman), Marcel Spears (Sylvester), Peter Van Wagner (Sturdyvant), ArneTia Walker (Ma Rainey), and James A. Williams (Cutler).

The creative team for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom includes scenic designer Charlie Corcoran, costume designer Karen Perry, lighting designer Burke Brown, and Sound Designer Rob Kaplowitz. The original music is by Bill Sims Jr. & Kenny Rampton, the fight direction is by Thomas Schall, the casting is by Heidi Griffith & Kate Murray, and the stage manager is Laura Wilson.

Ticket prices range from $40 to $70, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets are available for every performance; $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available from or 732.345.1400.


Inside Two River is a series of events specially curated for each Two River Theater production. For more information or to reserve seats, patrons should visit or call 732.345.1400.

A Taste of the Blues Block Party: Friday, August 26 at 7pm on Two River's Outdoor Plaza (rain location: Theater Lobby)
In this free community event, Two River will host an outdoor block party featuring live blues music from Dean Shot and the Solid Senders featuring JB Lawson, dancing on the plaza and a sampling of food from local restaurants and community members. Participants will have the opportunity to meet the company of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, get a sneak peek at the set model for the show, and enter a raffle to win free tickets. For more information, visit or call 732.345.1400.

Book Club: One Righteous Man: Samuel Battle and the Shattering of the Color Line in New York by Arthur Browne, Sunday, October 9 at 6pm in the Victoria J. Mastrobuono Library
In this special meeting hosted by Two River Community Relations Liaison Gilda Rogers, the Two River Book Club will read Arthur Browne's One Righteous Man, the story of the first African-American officer in the New York Police Department. Joining the force in 1911, Battle served for four decades, confronting racism both in the force and out, and befriending everyone from Joe Louis to Eleanor Roosevelt. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Arthur Browne, the book's author, will join the Book Club for this discussion on history, legacy, and race relations in a changing America, in conjunction with Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.


Before Play and Lobby Display
Audiences will learn about August Wilson in Two River's Before Play lecture series, which takes place 45 minutes prior to every performance, and Lobby Display.

Post-Play Conversations
Discussions with the cast and a member of Two River's Artistic staff will take place on Wednesday, September 21 at 7 pm; Sunday, September 25 at 3pm; and Wednesday, September 28 at 1pm.


Working with Google, Two River has created and launched a virtual tour of its facility, which lives on Google Maps and This virtual tour provides an additional level of support and benefit for patrons who use wheelchairs or require other assistance by allowing them to virtually come through the theater's front doors and view the space in detail in advance of their visit.

An audio-described performance is scheduled for Wednesday, September 28 at 1pm, and an open-captioned performance is scheduled for Saturday, October 1 at 3pm. Tickets are available at a discounted rate of $25 for patrons using these services. To reserve wheelchair-accessible seating or tickets to a performance listed above, patrons should call 732.345.1400 or e-mail

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, creates great American theater performed by award-winning artists. We produce American and world masterpieces, and new plays and musicals. Two River Theater offers new-play commissions and artistic development activities that support the most adventurous artists in the American theater; invites its audience to be part of the creative process through readings and open rehearsals; and cultivates students and young people to participate in innovative arts-education programs and become a new generation of theatergoers. Founded in 1994 by Joan and Dr. Robert M. Rechnitz, Two River Theater is easily accessible by car, train, or bus, with great restaurants and shopping within walking distance of the theater.

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