Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
George C. Wolfe
Tensions and temperatures rise over the course of an afternoon recording session in 1920s Chicago as a band of musicians await trailblazing performer, the legendary “Mother of the Blues,” Ma Rainey. Late to the session, the fearless, fiery Ma engages in a battle of wills with her white manager and producer over control of her music. As the band waits in the studio’s claustrophobic rehearsal room, ambitious trumpeter Levee — who has an eye for Ma’s girlfriend and is determined to stake his own claim on the music industry — spurs his fellow musicians into an eruption of stories revealing truths that will forever change the course of their lives.
Adapted from two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s play, MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM celebrates the transformative power of the blues and the artists who refuse to let society’s prejudices dictate their worth.
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Gertrude "Ma" Rainey (born Gertrude Pridgett, April 26, 1886 – December 22, 1939) was one of the earliest African-American professional bluessingers and one of the first generation of blues singers to record. The "Mother of the Blues", she bridged earlier vaudeville and the authentic expression of southern blues, influencing a generation of blues singers. The singer began performing as a teenager and became known as Ma Rainey after her marriage to Will Rainey, in 1904. They toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and later formed their own group, Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. Her first recording was made in 1923. In the next five years, she made over 100 recordings, including "Bo-Weevil Blues" (1923), "Moonshine Blues" (1923), "See See Rider Blues" (1924), "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (1927), and "Soon This Morning" (1927).
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George C. Wolfe
Chadwick Boseman Will Be Submitted as Leading Actor for MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM
Chadwick Boseman will be submitted to awards shows posthumously as a leading actor for his role in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," the upcoming film adaptation of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play.
The film takes place in 1927 Chicago, where tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious trumpeter Levee, and the white management determined to control her music, according to Variety.
Academy Award winner Viola Davis ("Fences") plays the "Mother of the Blues" and will also campaign for best actress.
This is especially significant because the actors who originated the roles on Broadway in 1984, Theresa Merritt and Charles S. Dutton, were both submitted in their featured actor categories.
Boseman died from colon cancer in August. He is best known for his role as T'Challa in "Black Panther," and for playing James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and more in biopics.
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" will be released on Netflix on Dec. 18.
Watch the trailer here:
Netflix Delays Virtual Preview Event For MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM Following the Death of Chadwick Boseman
Netflix has delayed a virtual preview event for for "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" following the death of Chadwick Boseman, who stars in the film.
The preview event was originally set for Monday.
As BroadwayWorld previously reported, Boseman, best known for his performance in Black Panther, has died at age 43 due to stage IV colon cancer, which he was diagnosed with in 2016.
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" is currently still scheduled to release later this year. The film also stars Viola Davis and Colman Domingo, and is based on the acclaimed August Wilson play of the same name.
"Working with Chadwick on Ma Rainey was a glorious experience," said the film's director, George C. Wolfe. "Every day we all got to witness the ferocity of his talent and the gentleness of his heart. A truly blessed, loving, gifted and giving human being."
Denzel Washington, who produced the film, said, "He was a gentle soul and a brilliant artist,who will stay with us for eternity through his iconic performances over his short yet illustrious career. God bless Chadwick Boseman."
Todd Black, another producer on the film said, "Chadwick had a remarkable love of his craft and he brought strength and light to the set of 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' every day. His fearless, powerful performances are a gift that will live on and continue to inspire."
Read more touching tributes to Boseman below, including from his castmates Viola Davis and Colman Domingo.
Chadwick.....no words to express my devastation of losing you. Your talent, your spirit, your heart, your authenticity........It was an honor working beside you, getting to know you....Rest well prince...May flights of angels sing thee to thy heavenly rest. I love you! ??? My heart cannot take 2020! Please God no more!!!
A post shared by VIOLA DAVIS (@violadavis) on Aug 28, 2020 at 8:32pm PDT
My friend Chad is on the far left. We created something beautiful together. His last film Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. The film wrestles with God. We wrestled with August Wilson's text. We wrestled with music. We wrestled with faith. We shared such a loving brotherhood since the first time we did a reading together many moons ago at New York Stage and Film. Each time I always thought, he was such a shy, cool, kinda strange intellectual brother. Knowing him on the journey of Ma was a true gift. I will miss him and honor his incredible legacy that he built in 43 years. Goodnight friend.
A post shared by Colman Domingo (@kingofbingo) on Aug 28, 2020 at 8:35pm PDT
Our ancestor August Wilson brought us together, now you're with him among all else pure and THEE great. Great is you. Who you've been to US. You cared so much. It is immeasurable what I learned from you. We would rehearse rehearse rehearse. We'd try again. We'd try it this way and that way again. we'd play and laugh with George and try again and fail. We PLAYED. We are only afforded so many roles to play. I was so happy to lend myself to the bigger part of it with YOU. I was so in awe of all of you. You used everything God gave you. You helped me feel good about my desire to find the freedom in our scenes. You supported my innate desire to play. Helped not overthink it so damn much. You blessed us all beyond belief. Beyond. Fly on beautiful ancestor. thank you. I know you'll wrap beautiful Taylor and your family in your grace. You were grace personified. I am so honored to be your Dussie Mae. You are forever my Levee. You are forever our king. Wakanda forever. ♾ love you forever Chadwick. see you again boundlessly.
A post shared by Taylour Paige (@taylour) on Aug 28, 2020 at 9:18pm PDT
When I listen to the rain I'll hear you. R.I.P. my talented friend. pic.twitter.com/qtRKOFySOg- Glynn Turman (@GlynnTurman) August 29, 2020
PLAY OF THE DAY! Today's Play: MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM by August Wilson
During this time when productions all over the world have been put on pause, we are coming together to celebrate plays that have left their mark on theater history.
This week we will be focusing on the plays of August Wilson.
Today's play, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom opened on Broadway in 1984. It is one of the plays in August Wilson's Pittsburgh Cycle. The play is set in Chicago in the 1920s and deals with issues of race, religion and the exploitation of black recording artists by white producers.
The play received a 1985 Tony Award nomination for Best Play. The play starred Theresa Merritt, Charles S. Dutton and more. Merrit and Dutton were both nominated for Tony Awards.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was revived on Broadway in 2003 featuring Charles S. Dutton as Levee and Whoopi Goldberg as Ma.
The National Theatre in London revived the show in 2016, and won the Olivier Award for Best Revival.
In 2019 it was announced that Viola Davis, Chadwick Boseman, Glynn Turman, Colman Domingo and Michael Potts were set to star in a Netflix film version of the play.
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom was published in the early 1980s and premiered at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. Its Broadway debut at the Cort Theatre in 1984 won a New York Drama Critics' Circle award and garnered a Tony Award nomination for Best Play. It was revived on Broadway in 2003, starring Charles S. Dutton and Whoopi Goldberg.