Press Releases

Students Produce and Perform in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" in Times Square Theatre

Date Released: 8/27/2009

They produced, performed, and raised their own financing for this student initiated production at the Sage Theater


No country barn or park setting for these aspiring professionals, a group of students from the Purchase College School of the Arts spent their summer in Times Square producing and rehearsing August Wilson’s play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” at the Sage Theater in the heart of Broadway.


The cast and crew headed by director Tabitha Holbert called themselves The People Theatre Company and were drawn from the talent pool of actors and design tech students at Purchase College.  They’ raised their own funds and pooled their resources to put on this show at the Sage Theater. Performances were on August 21, 22 & August 28, 29 at 8 PM.  The Sage Theatre is located at 711 Seventh Avenue, 2nd floor (Between 47th & 48th Streets). 


Director Tabitha Holbert discovered “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” through her university class work as a sophomore. Now a senior, her production features a nontraditional young cast that lends a youthful energy to the smart, often hilarious and often tragic dialogue.  This along with the play’s interjections of Ma Rainey’s blues ballads, makes the stage glow with the intangible, valuable spirit of the music, which forms the cornerstone of the action in this soulful, tragic story.


“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is a song by Ma Rainey, which makes obvious allusions rather than being dance music.  The title “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” was used for a 1982 play by August Wilson, showing the exploits and experiences of African-Americans.  “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is set in Chicago, March of 1927.  In two acts, the play tells the story of legendary blues singer Ma Rainey and her band, addressing race, religions, art, and the sometimes soul-crushing search for identity in 1920’s America.  The title of the play, derived from a phenomenally popular flapper-era dance and the title of Ma Rainey’s actual songs, is in itself a statement about the exploitation of African-American performers by white producers, which becomes one of the play’s central conflicts.



The cast included:

Dennis Anderson as Cutler, Port Chester

Caliaf St. Aubyn as Levee, Flatbush, Brooklyn

Chris Stevenson as Toledo

Marcus Callender as Slow Drag, Brownsville, Brooklyn

Tabitha Holbert as Ma Rainey, Port Chester

Joanna Hartshorne as Dussie Mae, Hastings-On-Hudson

Greg Lynch as Sylvester, Courtland manor

Frank Winters as Sturdyvant, Pleasantville

Dan Frye as Irvin, Port Chester

John Colhouer as Policeman, Port Chester


Technical crew:

Sarah Testerman, Fishkill, NY

Carley Anecharico, Mamaroneck, NY

Zach Blane, Long Island, NY

Trevor Collins, San Diego, CA

Joseph DeLuise, Wappinger Falls, NY

Jonathan Ramage, Long Island, NY

Kyle Birdwell, Tulsa, OK

Samuel Froeschle, St. Petersburg, FL