F.L. Sandle Players to usher in play season with ‘Ma Rainey’

A vibrant and energetic cast of Floyd L. Sandle Players will deliver a drama that promises not only to entertain, but to teach audiences the struggles and determination of a rhythm-and-blues singer.The Department of Theatre and Speech will open the theatre season with Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom on Wednesday Oct. 7 and will continue Oct. 8-10 and wrap up on Oct. 11 at the F.L. Sandle Theatre on campus.

Written by August Wilson, the play focuses on the struggles of Afro-Americans and the challenges encountered to get into and stay in the entertainment industry.

“I think he (August Wilson) depicts how sometimes we are at the bottom of our being and each of these characters reflect at times when they were at that state of being,” said Dr. King Godwin, director of the Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and head of the Speech & Theatre Department.

Godwin outlined that the writer tries to focus on racism and the jealousy encountered both within and outside of the African-American culture. The director further outlined that this is an example of how African-Americans are struggling to get themselves known in the world of arts and, in this case, the world of music.

The nine-member cast includes Daron James as Slow Drag, Dale Nelson as Sylvester and lead actor Jonathan Jackson.
Staging Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has amassed its own challenges. According to Dr. Godwin, the relatively young cast members are playing roles that are much older then they are.

“I think the greatest challenge is to take a group of young actors and to make them play characters that are much older then they are . the average age of the cast is 22 and the characters range in ages from 38 to 55.”

However, the cast was able to accomplish this by shadowing older people and by the guidance of their director. Speaking almost a week ahead of the event, Dr. Godwin said there is no doubt that with six weeks of extended and tedious rehearsals that the cast will be ready for opening night.

“They will be ready for show night.I think they are 90 percent there already,” Dr. Godwin said.

The production staff includes Steve Chapin as set and sound designer; Teisha Lincoln as costume designer; Courtney Hickman as light designer; and Jamila Hickman as stage manager.

Last Friday night, a first-hand view of the rehearsals saw the nine-member cast in action and in quite comfortable roles. However, when the curtains are raised and light go up on Wednesday, it’s hoped that occasional upstaging, additional confidence in delivering lines and other simple yet impactful techniques will be improved.

Blue is the next play to be performed by the theatre company.
For more information, call 318-274-2201.