HUNTINGTON OFFICIALLY COMPLETES WILSON'S LANDMARK CENTURY CYCLE TONIGHT
(Boston) — After being without power and business systems for more than 54 hours during the "Back Bay Blackout" and powering a preview performance of MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM with an NStar-provided generator, the lights are on again at the Huntington Theatre Company, which officially opens the production tonight. The Huntington was forced to cancel performances Tuesday and Wednesday because of the power outage that affected Back Bay and a number of other neighborhoods in Boston. Opening Night was originally scheduled for Wednesday.
"I am enormously grateful to Mayor Menino's office and to NStar for providing us with an emergency generator while they were also tirelessly working to restore power to Huntington Avenue and the surrounding neighborhood," says Huntington Managing Director Michael Maso. "Our staff, company of actors, and Thursday's enthusiastic audience share my appreciation."
Mayor Thomas M. Menino had previously declared Wednesday March 14 August Wilson Day in the city of Boston in recognition of the Huntington Theatre Company's completion of Wilson's Century Cycle. Wilson's landmark ten-play cycle explores the African-American experience, decade by decade, through the 20th century. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is the tenth and final Huntington production of the Cycle's plays.
Beginning in 1986 with Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Wilson's third play, the Huntington and Boston audiences enjoyed a special relationship with the playwright who came to consider the theatre company an artistic home. The Huntington mounted early productions of the final eight Cycle plays — seven with Wilson in resience — before transferring them to New York where they received numerous awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes (Fences, The Piano Lesson), nine Tony Awards, seven Drama Desk Awards, and seven Drama Critics' Circle Awards.
"August would spend six weeks here working on eachplay," recalls Maso. "At times, I would see the next play come to life in front of me as he started to talk about the characters that were still in his head and what he was discovering about them. Here at the Huntington, we had the privilege of seeing some of these stories come to life in his head before he ever wrote a word down."
"I have a long and valued relationship with the Huntington. They have contributed enormously to my development as a playwright, and I guard that relationship jealously," Wilson remarked in 2004.
Wilson wrote the Cycle's first two plays, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and Fences, before his partnership with the Huntington began. The Huntington staged Radio Golf, the final play of his Cycle, in 2006, shortly after his untimely death at 60 from liver cancer. In 2009, the Huntington produced Wilson's second play Fences. The production, helmed by Kenny Leon (Fences andStick Fly, both on Broadway) received the 2010 Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Production (large theatre).
When I first arrived at the Huntington, one of the questions I was asked most frequently by members of our audience was when would we complete August Wilson's magnificent Century Cycle," says Artistic Director Peter DuBois. "This production closes such a meaningful chapter in the Huntington's history."
Wilson's unique, insightful voice illuminated the African-American experience for tens of thousands of local theatregoers and dramatic scholars and inspired countless artists of color, including Boston's own Lydia R. Diamond (Stick Fly) and Kirsten Greenidge (The Luck of the Irish).
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom is directed by Liesl Tommy (Ruined) and features Yvette Freeman (Dinah Was, NBC's "ER") and Jason Bowen (Ruined, A Civil War Christmas, Prelude to a Kiss at the Huntington). In the play, a quartet of blues musicians gather in a run-down 1920s Chicago studio waiting for legendary blues singer Ma Rainey to arrive to record new sides of her old favorites. Young, hotheaded trumpeter Levee aspires to a better life for himself and sees the emerging form of the blues as his ticket to fame and fortune. When he clashes with veteran musicians Toledo and Cutler and Ma Rainey spars with her white music producers, generational and racial tensions explode in the powerful and moving drama Newsweek calls, "Extraordinary."
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom plays now through April 8 at the BU Theatre / Avenue of the Arts. Tickets and information at huntingtontheatre.org or 617 266 0800.
ABOUT HUNTINGTON THEATRE COMPANY:
Over the past 30 years the Huntington Theatre Company has developed into Boston's leading professional theatre. Under the direction of Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso and in residence at Boston University, the Huntington brings together world—class theatre artists from Boston and Broadway and the most promising new talent to create an eclectic season of exciting new works and classics made current. By also mentoring playwrights in the Huntington Playwriting Fellows program, educating young people in theatre through its nationally renowned programs in education, and providing Boston—based companies with discounted audience services and first—class facilities at the Huntington—built and operated Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, the Huntington cultivates, celebrates, and champions theatre as an art form. The Huntington has transferred over a dozen productions to New York, including two last fall: the Broadway premiere of Lydia R. Diamond's Stick Fly and the Roundabout Theatre Company production of Stephen Karam's Sons of the Prophet. A national leader in the development of new plays, the Huntington has produced 83 New England, American, or world premieres to date, with three world premieres scheduled for the 2011 — 2012 Season, and its education and community programs serve 25,000 young people and underserved audiences each year. The Huntington performs in two homes — the BU Theatre on the Avenue of the Arts and the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA in the South End. The Huntington was founded in 1982 by Boston University and separately incorporated as an independent non—profit in 1986. Its two prior artistic leaders were Peter Altman (1982 — 2000) and Nicholas Martin (2000 — 2008). For more information, visit huntingtontheatre.org.