FEATURE: The Greene Space’s August Wilson’s American Century Cycle-Ma Rainey Recap

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The full cast of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and other #WilsonCycle participants

Last night was a blast! The Greene Space was small enough to be intimate, but large enough to not feel cramped. People of all shades sat in the audience in anticipation of the first recording in August Wilson’s Century Cycle-Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Laura Walker, the President of NYPR (New York Public Radio), kicked off the evening enlightening the audience to the fact that the #WilsonCycle had been a four-year process, and one of The Greene Space’s most ambitious undertakings to date. Included in the fruition of this project were August Wilson’s wife, Constanza Romero, and daughter Azula Wilson (who I sat behind)!

Interesting Fact:

August Wilson renamed himself. His original name was Frederick August Kittel (told to the audience by Indira Etwaroo-The Greene Space’s Founding Executive Producer)

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The cast ready to record

Ruben Santiago Hudson (Director of Ma Rainey) spoke prior to the recording as well. He and Indira met two years ago to continue the process of an, ‘idea whose time has come’ (Etwaroo). However, this meeting with Etwaroo was not Santiago-Hudson’s first introduction to Wilson. Thirty years prior he witnessed half (he was an actor  at the time and could only make it to half of the show) of a Wilson show and found the experience to be, ‘electrifying.’ From that point on he knew he had to be part of what Wilson was doing.

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The Band w/Bill Sims Jr

For those who missed it, watching the recording was a truly enjoyable experience. The excitement in the room was similar to that of the opening of any show, but the importance of the historical legacy was not lost on anyone. A great time was had by all, and it became even more interesting once it was time to record ‘pick ups’ (parts of the recording that need to be re-recorded for a variety of purposes). Personally I loved this because it was a chance to see

Azula Wilson and I

Azula Wilson and I

the cast outside of their characters, encouraging and joking around with each other. At one point Charles (Cutler) kept repeating his line, and once he got it he looked at the audience and said, “That’s how it’s done y’all!” This interaction included director, Ruben Santiago Hudson, who encouraged the cast to, “keep [their] energy up.’ However, my favorite moment of the pick up’s was during take of the band (a real band led by Bill Sims Jr) playing the title song Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. By the third attempt, instead of getting frustrated, Bill looked over at us and joked, ” That’s Levee’s version!” The crowd roared in laughter.

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The reception cake!

After this we were all ready for the reception that followed! This was a great opportunity to meet some of the prominent players and celebrate August Wilson’s and The Greene Space’s achievements. All in all it was a wonderful evening that I will always remember!

Did you watch the live webcast? What did you think?? Stay tuned! Fences is tomorrow and as mentioned you can watch the recording live!

Much Love,

Shavanna, Editor

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