Lady Sings the Blues

Ma Rainey was a real person. One of our earliest professional blues singers, she performed and recorded throughout the 1920s and 1930s, and her popularity and folksy style earned her the title “Mother of the Blues.” Among her more noteworthy compositions are “Bo-Weevil Blues,” “Black Bottom,” and “See See Rider Blues,” a recording with Louis Armstrong that was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004.

Rainey’s fictionalized doppelganger is at the center of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, one among August Wilson’s ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle chronicling the experiences of twentieth century African Americans. The play, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982, takes place in Chicago -- the only installment in the series that’s not set in Pittsburgh. That’s because Ma Rainey, now largely forgotten, often recorded in the Windy City. Wilson’s two-act drama otherwise follows his formula of shoehorning issues of race, art, religion, and the exploitation of Black people in the last century.

Thu., Nov. 11, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 12, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 13, 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 14, 1 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 17, 7:30 p.m.; Thu., Nov. 18, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 19, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 20, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 21, 1 & 7 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 24, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 26, 8 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 27, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 28, 1 p.m., 2010
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela