Monday, August 22, 2016

August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom next at Two River Theater

RED BANK, NJ— Two River Theater announces the cast and creative team for its production of August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. The production will run September 10-October 9, 2016, with the opening night on Friday, September 16 at 8pm. The lead production sponsor for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom is Riverview Medical Center and the media partner is WBGO Jazz 88.3.

Two River Theater opens its season with an extended four-week run of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Two River’s fourth production from August Wilson’s American Century Cycle following its acclaimed productions of Jitney, Two Trains Running, and Seven Guitars. Wilson’s incendiary drama, set in the 1920s, takes audiences into the world of legendary singer Ma Rainey (the real-life “Mother of the Blues”) as she lays down tracks with her band in a Chicago recording studio.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom will be directed by actor, playwright, and director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who won a Tony Award for his performance in the Broadway production of Seven Guitars. His recent directing credits include Skeleton Crew at the Atlantic Theater and his own world-premiere play Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine at Two River.

Chanté Adams (Dussie May) is a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, where her credits include Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra. She appeared in Gertrude Stein SAINTS! with FringeNYC and at the Henry Street Settlement - Abrons Arts Center.

Harvy Blanks (Slow Drag) has appeared in all 10 of the plays in August Wilson’s American Century Cycle, including nine Wilson productions at the Denver Center Theater, where he was a company member for 28 years. He appeared in Two River’s productions ofJitney and Two Trains Running. His regional credits include the world premiere of Danai Gurira’s Familiar at Yale Repertory Theatre.

Brian D. Coats (Toledo) made his Two River debut last season in Seven Guitars. His regional credits include Invisible Man (Huntington Theatre Company/Studio Theater), for which he received a shared Helen Hayes Award. His television credits include Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos.

Michael Cumpsty (Irvin) received a Tony Award nomination for End of the Rainbow and an Obie Award for his performance as Hamlet at Classic Stage Company. His recent credits include Body of an American for Primary Stages and Hartford Stage. At Two River Theater, he has appeared in Absurd Person Singular, Present Laughter, and Much Ado About Nothing and directed Third.

Brandon J. Dirden (Levee) directed August Wilson’s Seven Guitars last season at Two River Theater, where his credits as an actor include Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine, Topdog/Underdog, and Jitney. He received an Obie Award for his performance in The Piano Lesson at Signature Theater; his Broadway credits include All the Way. He plays a recurring role on the FX series The Americans.

Bob Mackasek (Policeman) has been seen in August: Osage County with the Chatham Players, Three Sisters with Gowanus Arts Productions, and God of Carnage with Summit Playhouse, among other productions.

Marcel Spears (Sylvester) most recently co-starred in Trouble in Mind at The Guthrie Theater. His New York credits include the title role of the Classic Stage Company’s Young Company production of Othello; the CSC production of Mother Courage; and Page 73’s production of Judy.

Peter Van Wagner (Sturdyvant) has appeared in productions in New York, around the country, and internationally. His credits include A Thousand Clowns at Roundabout, Merry Wives of Windsor at Chicago Shakespeare, and West Side Story at La Scala-Milan. He was part of the SAG Award-winning Ensemble of Boardwalk Empire and has appeared in films including Annie and Arthur.

Arnetia Walker (Ma Rainey-photo right) began her acting career on Broadway at the age of 16 in Lorraine Hansberry’s The Sign in Sydney Brustein’s Window. She went on to appear in Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Wiz, Raisin, and Dreamgirls, where she holds the distinction of being the only actress to have played all three of the lead female roles. Her most recent stage performance was in Head of Passes at The Public Theater. Her film and television credits include Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills and Nurses.

James A. Williams (Cutler) was seen in Jitney and Two Trains Running at Two River. A mainstay of the Twin Cities theater scene since 1976, he is a founding member of Penumbra Theatre Company, where he began his lifelong relationship with August Wilson. His credits in New York include Radio Golf, The Piano Lesson, and My Children! My Africa!.

The creative team for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom includes scenic designer Charlie Corcoran, costume designer Karen Perry, lighting designer Burke Brown, and sound designer Rob Kaplowitz. The original music is by Bill Sims Jr. & Kenny Rampton, the fight direction is by Thomas Schall, the casting is by Heidi Griffith & Kate Murray, and the stage manager is Laura Wilson. 

Ticket Information

Ticket prices range from $40 to $70, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets are available for every performance; $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available from or 732.345.1400.

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