Multi Ethnic Theater Stages August Wilson's MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM

Multi Ethnic Theater Stages August Wilson's MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM

Multi Ethnic Theater (MET) will present August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, August 7 - September 1, at The Costume Shop 1117 Market Street, San Francisco, just a few steps from the Civic Center BART station. The play is directed by Lewis Campbell, with Susie Butler as Ma Rainey.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom will be the seventh August Wilson play Multi Ethnic Theatre has produced. Set in Chicago, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is the only one of Wilson's "Pittsburgh Cycle" plays to be set somewhere other than that Pennsylvania city.

"My goal is for Multi Ethnic Theater to produce all ten of Wilson's plays. After Ma Rainey, we'll have three more to go," Campbell states.

Award-winning playwright August Wilson is best known for the ten plays of his "Pittsburgh Cycle," nine of which are set in the "The Hill District," the African-American neighborhood adjacent to downtown Pittsburgh. Each of the ten plays is set in a different decade of the 20th Century and reflects the temper of that particular time as it affected African-Americans.

In a Chicago recording studio, Ma Rainey's band members, Cutler, Toledo, Slow Drag, and Levee gather to record a new album of her songs. As they wait for her to arrive, they tell stories, joke, philosophize, and argue. Tension is apparent between the young hot-headed trumpeter Levee, who dreams of having his own band, and veterans Cutler and Toledo. By the time Ma Rainey arrives with entourage in tow, recording has fallen badly behind schedule, enraging white producers Sturdyvant and Irvin. Ma's insistence that her stuttering nephew Sylvester speak the title song's introduction wreaks further havoc. As the band waits for various technical problems to be solved, Levee and Cutler come to blows.

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom opened at the Yale Repertory Theater in 1984 and subsequently moved to Broadway. In 1985, it won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play and was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Play and the Drama Desk Award as Outstanding New Play. A 1993 Broadway revival featured Charles S. Dutton as Levee and Whoopi Goldberg as Ma Rainey.

This is Susie Butler's first appearance with MET. Ms. Butler, a soprano with a four-octave range, has been performing her solo show, Susie Butler Sings Sarah Vaughan, all over California and Florida for over 15 years. Susie is a big band singer with a wide repertoire, from pop to jazz and blues. She records on Razzz Records.

Vernon Medearis has been featured in several MET productions of Wilson's plays, namely Jitney, Two Trains Running, and Radio Golf; Gift Harris played Roosevelt in Radio Golf; Geoffrey Grier was featured as Harmon in Radio Golf.

August Wilson was born in Pittsburgh in 1945. He dropped out of school in the 10th grade, and as a playwright, is completely self-taught. Wilson's best known plays are in his "Pittsburgh Cycle": Fences (1985) won a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award, The Piano Lesson (1990) won a Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. August Wilson died in 2005.

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