February 22, 2023
07:30 PM - 09:30 PM
Campus Events
Henderson 112
"I'm talking about what all of us are gonna do together," blues pianist Toledo complains at a troubled recording session in Chicago in 1927, while the studio musicians and white producers wait for the belated entrance of Ma Rainey, the "Mother of the Blues." But the session proves to be more about what doesn't get done, about untogetherness, about fractures and fissures and conflict. August Wilson's play (1984) the only one of his ten-play Pittsburgh cycle, that magisterial set of plays providing a decade-by-decade survey of the Black experience in America an in the 20th century, not set in Pittsburgh--imagines that faltering effort to record Ma Rainey, an actual historical figure (and, yes, "mother of the blues") in the context of the northern migration of Blacks from the South, and the new urban contexts (and new forms of racism) that migration entails. The film adaptation is the second in the series envisioned by Denzel Washington (after directing and starring in "Fences" in 2016) that aims to adapt the whole of Wilson's Pittsburgh cycle. George C. Wolfe directs, with stunning performances by Viola Davis as Ma Rainey and Chadwick Boseman as the trumpeter Levee (in his final performance) anchoring a solid ensemble class. And the music, of course, is as the center.
Thomas Prasch