August Wilson's electrifying drama, set in Chicago during the Harlem Renaissance, explores the blues, what it means to be an artist, and race relations in America.
The play's epic voice speaks eloquently about the nature of our culture, the struggles of artists and how different generations have perceived the opportunities available to them: opportunities which reflected changes in the society with regard to power dynamics and race. The title refers to a song of the same title by Ma Rainey referring to the Black Bottom dance. Rainey, an early, seminal recording artist, is called The Mother of the Blues. This play is set in a Chicago recording studio in 1927, where band members are waiting to record a new album with her. She is portrayed as an imperious, commanding star who is nevertheless realistic and connected to the tender origins of her music.
Read our exclusve interview with the artistic director of New Haarlem Arts Theatre. He explains how (and why) the company's bringing shows like Ma Rainey to uptown Manhattan.