WMU News

Theatre season concludes with award-winning 'Ma Rainey'

March 26, 2004

KALAMAZOO--University Theatre presents the 1985 winner of the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," for seven shows, April 1-10, in the Gilmore Theatre Complex at Western Michigan University.

Curtain times are 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, April 1-3 and 8-10, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 4. An opening night reception sponsored by Cosmo's Cucina takes place after the April 1 performance, and a post-show discussion with the director and cast is scheduled for April 8.

In "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," playwright August Wilson takes us back to a Chicago recording studio in 1927, where the band for legendary blues singer Ma Rainey is warming up in anticipation of her arrival. As they wait, the black musicians discuss their abusive employer and the hardships of life in America. Artistic and racial tensions build when Ma Rainey finally arrives, and they set out to cut a new album under the direction of the white studio owner.

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is the third in August Wilson's nine play decade-by-decade cycle detailing the African-American experience throughout the 20th century. It was Wilson's first critical success and the work that sent him to the forefront of contemporary American theatre. Wilson's other plays have garnered him numerous honors, including a Tony Award and two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama.

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is directed by Von Washington, professor of theatre. The cast includes WMU seniors Altamiece Carolyn Ballard, Ronald Cheek Jr. and Kevin Vaught; juniors Larry Herron and Rusty Northrop; sophomores Hal Bates Jr., Joseph Johnson, Joshua R. Pyne and J. Steadman; and freshmen Sharmaine McGinnis and Brock Arthur Yordy. The designers include students Debbie Grant (costumes) and Rachel Konieczny (sound); and faculty members Vincent Faust (scenery) and Matthew Knewtson (lighting).

All seating for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is reserved. Tickets may be purchased by calling or visiting the University Theatre Ticket Office between noon and 5 p.m., weekdays, (269) 387-6222. Admission for the general public costs $16, $12 for WMU faculty and staff and $7 for students. The box offices at Miller Auditorium and the Epic Center in downtown Kalamazoo also sell tickets to all University Theatre productions.

The 2003-04 season at the University Theatre was made possible through a partnership with TIAA-CREF.

Media contact: Patrick Donnelly, 269 387-6222, patrick.donnelly@wmich.edu

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