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Cast announced for Penumbra’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at Guthrie Theater





Limited engagement begins February 10, 2011 at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis


Production Photos available online at:


(Minneapolis/St. Paul) The Guthrie Theater welcomes Penumbra Theatre Company’s acclaimed production of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson’s gripping drama Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, directed by Penumbra artistic director Lou Bellamy. Part of Wilson’s ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle chronicling the twentieth century African American experience, the production features Grammy Award-winning artist Jevetta Steel in the title role as Gertrude “Ma” Rainey. A co-production with Arizona Theatre Company, Ma Rainey’s recent Phoenix run was heralded by Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout as “earthily direct, wholly to the point and impeccably cast, with Jevetta Steele hitting the center of the bull’s-eye.”


Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom marks the third Penumbra Theatre production presented at the Guthrie in as many seasons, following the critically acclaimed productions of Gem of the Ocean in 2008 and A Raisin in the Sun in 2009.


The cast of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom also includes James T. Alfred (Levee), Lerea Carter (Dussie Mae), James Craven (Cutler), Penumbra founding member Abdul Salaam El Razzac (Toledo), William John Hall, Jr. (Slow Drag), Phil Kilbourne (Irvin), Brendan Guy Murphy (Policeman), Michael Tezla (Sturdyvant) and Ahanti Young (Sylvester).


Set in 1920s Chicago, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom deals with the issues of race, art, religion and the historic exploitation of black recording artists by white producers, as fiery blues legend Gertrude “Ma” Rainey is getting ready to lay down a hit record with her virtuoso band. As she strides into the cramped, South Side Chicago recording studio, she squares off against a battling quartet of musicians, a tight-fisted producer and her manager who’s just trying to keep the recording session on track, giving the audience a look at a time when even the most legendary singer of her day had to fight for every scrap of respect she could get.


Steele has appeared on Broadway in The Gospel at Colonus and in the national/international tours of The Gospel at Colonus, Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story, Bagdad Café-The Musical, The Sounds of Blackness and The Night Before Christmas. Locally, she has performed with Penumbra Theatre Company, Guthrie Theater (most recently in the 2004 production of Crowns), Mixed Blood Theatre, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Hey City Theater and Park Square Theatre. Her film credits include Corrina, Corrina; Hoop Dreams; Born to be Wild; Graffiti Bridge and Bagdad Café (for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Song for “Calling You”). She has four gold records to her credit and can be heard on her solo CDs, Here It Is and My Heart, as well as the original cast recording of Two Queens, One Castle.


The artistic team also includes Vicki M. Smith (Scenic Designer), Mathew J. LeFebvre (Costume Designer), Don Darnutzer (Lighting Designer), Brian Jerome Peterson (Sound Designer), Sanford Moore (Music Director), Brent Gibbs (Fight Director), Bruno Ingram (Stage Manager) and Jason Clusman (Stage Manager).

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom previews February 10, opens February 11 and continues through March 6, 2011, on the McGuire Proscenium Stage. Single tickets start at $24 and are now on sale through the Guthrie Box Office at 612.377.2224, toll-free 877.44.STAGE, 612.225.6244 (Group Sales) and online at www.guthrietheater.org.


PENUMBRA THEATRE was founded in 1976 by Lou Bellamy to make socially responsible art – art that demanded a response, art with intent, art that could create change. At a time when roles for black artists were limited to stereotypes and comical representations, Penumbra produced theater that roared with authenticity through the unrestrained and rich voice of black artists and playwrights.  This respect for cultural authenticity became Penumbra’s signature style – and demand for it has reached new heights from theaters around the country fostering collaborations, new productions, tours and awards. The 2010-2011season features Penumbra’s co-production with Arizona Theatre Company of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, staged in Tucson and Phoenix, and in Minneapolis, MN at the Guthrie. Penumbra is also proud to stage the world premiere of I Wish You Love this April and take it to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts this June. For the latest news and updates, visit www.penumbratheatre.org.

The GUTHRIE THEATER (Joe Dowling, Director) was founded by Sir Tyrone Guthrie in 1963 and is an American center for theater performance, production, education and professional training. The Tony Award-winning Guthrie Theater is dedicated to producing the great works of dramatic literature, developing the work of contemporary playwrights and cultivating the next generation of theater artists. With annual attendance of nearly 500,000 people, the Guthrie Theater presents a mix of classic plays and contemporary work on its three stages. Under the artistic leadership of Joe Dowling since 1995, the Guthrie continues to set a national standard for excellence in theatrical production and performance. In 2006, the Guthrie opened its new home on the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, the Guthrie Theater houses three state-of-the-art stages, production facilities, classrooms and dramatic public lobbies. www.guthrietheater.org



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