Student's Reaction to Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

by:  Rebecca Curtiss at 03/21/2012

We recieved this wonderful note from a instructor/actress who brought her students to a recent performance of  Ma Rainey's Black Bottom:

Apart from thank yous from me and my Bunker Hill students that attended Ma Rainey's..., I want you to know that it mattered immensely to them. One student (an articulate, sensitive, intelligent, terrific guy of about 30) had never seen a play. He was blown away!!!!! Another fellow, from Guatemala - (ditto regarding attributes) had never seen a play in this country and had only ever seen musicals in Guatemala. Most of the students had only seen "musicals" via high school or other venues. The black students I think could especially relate to the characters --- as could the musicians (of which there were a few in the group.)


Jason Bowen in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Photo: T. Charles Erickson

They were so impressed with the actors. They valued everyone of them — and especially Levee — what a really gifted, skilled actor — and his antagonist, Toledo, and Ma Rainey. They couldn't get over how believable ALL the fellows in the band were. I thought the bass player, with perhaps the least rewarding role - was just amazing — and others thought the band leader did an amazing job of trying to provide a balance (as the bass player did as well) The rapport between the musicians was wonderful. True ensemble acting.

They appreciated that the play — after the first act where not so much seems to be happening - in the second act, built on everything that had come before. I was proud of their observations.

Taking students to Ma Rainey's was a wonderful experience and we thank you, Huntington. You all did a very good thing for my students. Those that couldn't make it were so inspired (and clearly felt they'd really missed out) listening to everyone else talk about the play in both classes — a few have said they're going to figure out a way to go on their own so hopefully, they'll get themselves there! (Last year, a student who had never seen theatre but that I took to his first play---the very next night brought his brother to see it!)

— D. Sorbello - Instructor/Actress

Learn more about bringing students to Huntington productions by contacting Meg O'Brien at 617 273 1558.

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