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Home » Production History » 2018 Productions » Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Photo by Duane Rieder

By August Wilson
Directed by Mark Clayton Southers
Part of the August Wilson Center’s Highmark Blues and Heritage Festival
Extended! Sept. 14th through Oct. 14th 2018
At Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre

“It’s extraordinary watching the exchange of energies and talent between them in exceptionally powerful performances.”
–  Ted Hoover, Pittsburgh Current

“The city’s premier interpreter of August Wilson’s work … yet another searing and soulful production.”
– Brian Pope, Pittsburgh in the Round

Set during a single afternoon in the recording studio of the famous blues singer Ma Rainey, this classic is the first of Wilson’s ten-play American Century Cycle, now considered a staple of American theater. A collaboration between the August Wilson Center and Mark Clayton Southers of the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company.

“Wonderful performances and powerful scenes”
– Chris Rawson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Reviews: Pittsburgh in the Round, Pittsburgh CurrentPost-Gazette, Burgh Vivant

Previews: City PaperNew Pittsburgh Courier, Pittsburgh CurrentPittsburgh in the Round, KDKA video feature

View the program (PDF) or addendum (PDF)


Vanessa German as Ma Rainey (through October 1st)
Jonathan Berry as Levee
Chuck Timbers as Cutler
Wali Jamal as Toledo
Sam Lothard as Slow Drag
Shakirah Stephens as Dussie Mae
Malic Williams as Sylvester
Mel Packer as Irvin
Mark Whitehead as Sturdyvant
Thomas Fuchel as Policeman
Roxie Robinson as Ma Rainey (from October 4th)
Shanita Bivins as Dussie Mae (understudy)

Starting October 4th, Roxie Robinson portrayed Ma Rainey, Eric Eleam Jr portrayed Sylvester, and Paul Guggenheimer portrayed Policeman.

Original music for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom composed by Dr. Nelson Harrison.

Dr. Nelson Harrison, trombone
Chuck Austin, trumpet
Billy Lewis, acoustic bass
Dr. James Johnson, Jr., piano
Arthur Carter, stride piano
Lindsley Love, guitar

More about the music (PDF)