Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
By August Wilson
Presented by: Prescott Joseph Center For Community Enhancement
Starring: The Lower Bottom Playaz
Directed by: Ayodele Nzinga
The Prescott Joseph Center For Community Enhancement is proud to present August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, starring The Lower Bottom Playaz, under the direction of Ayodele Nzinga. The play will open at The Sister Thea Bowman Memorial Theater, on July 13th and run though the 22nd of July. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the first of two works by Wilson slated to be directed by Nzinga as a part of Theater in the Yard, Season 11.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is the third of the Pittsburg Cycle by Wilson to be presented at The Sister Thea Bowman Memorial Theater in West Oakland. Although Wilson’s Cycle is set for the most part in the Hill District of Pittsburg PA he sets this work on the South Side of Chicago. This work will not be “relocated” to West Oakland, as is Nzinga’s habit with work for The Lower Bottom Playaz. Audiences should be able to make the leap on their own. Chicago’s correlation to West Oakland as a migration destination along with the history of Chicago’s Black Belt and Oakland’s 7th St. as two of the countries important North American African musical centers is obvious. Both were stops on the “chitlin circuit” and in both the North American African community lived similar lives with identical constraints and motivations.
Wilson’s raw and gritty expose of the American music industry allows us to look at a community developed as a result of the Great Migration. The work is pushed by and pulled out of the music of people in transit on a quest to a life they can imagine but can not touch; it is the music of loss and desire. The music is a story in and of itself. But the people who bring the music are the heart of this piece. The story within the story is always as instructive as the main event in Wilson’s work. In the sorrowful funk and divine fury of the music there is a delicately etched study of humanity for us to consider if we want more than entertainment from our theater.
Wilson celebrates the complex existence of North American African men in North America. The story within the story in Ma Rainey is as timeless as is Wilson’s exploration of the exploitation ever present in the music industry. He looks at power relations, voice, injustice, and manhood in a series of beautifully lucid profiles of the men behind the music. Wilson wants us to have a front row seat, he invites us to walk into the angst, anger, and hunger of the men in Ma Rainey, so we can walk out of the theater knowing something more about what resides in the spirit of men who walk our streets and live amongst us.
Join the Lower Bottom Playaz at The Sister Thea Bowman Memorial Theater in their celebration of America’s Shakespeare as they continue the tradition of Theater in the Yard, Season 11!
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
July 12, 13, 14, 15 & 20,21,22, 2012
Sister Thea Bowman Memorial Theater
Box Office: 510332-1319
920 Peralta St., Rear yard
Oakland CA 94607