“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is more than a simple production from the theater and dance department.
The show will employ the help from the entire School of the Arts; the music program to create the soundtrack and the music that the actors will be playing plus the visual arts program will design the cover to the soundtrack CD that will be produced.
“It’s another SOTA collaboration that is celebrating once again the brilliance of that union,” Director Daryll Harris said.
The play is set in a 1920s South Side Chicago recording studio, home to famous blues singer Ma Rainey. Ma Rainey struggles against her producers to keep control over her own music, but the band’s trumpet player has a different idea on the direction the music should take.
Harris said he proposed the play to the theater faculty because of its focus on the African American experience and the department had not done a play by August Wilson.
“Many consider him to be the 20th century William Shakespeare,” Harris said. “Others consider him to be the black William Shakespeare, but in any case we’ve not done any of his works so it’s to add that for our students and our campus community.”
The cast for the production has not be settled yet and will be posted Sept. 2-4.
“With this particular play the Ma Rainey character needs to be able to sing in a specific style, not just sing,” Harris said. “So an opera singer wouldn’t necessarily work for this.”
Harris also mentioned that the cast would need to be primarily black.
“It is a play specifically about the African American experience and would be disingenuous and untrue to the intent of the message and the intent of the playwright to cast it otherwise,” Harris said.