Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #75

Contents

WILSON’S FENCES COMES TO THE HUNTINGTON

COLTRANE CONCERT CELEBRATES 32 YEARS

BRANDON MATTHIEUS TALKS ABOUT JERSEY BOYS

AN INTERVIEW AND REVIEW ON JULIA CHILD FILM

PONYO DELIGHTS BOTH KIDS AND ADULTS

UP-COMING EVENTS & COMMUNITY INFORMATION


WILSON’S FENCES COMES TO THE HUNTINGTON

by Kay Bourne

(pictured: Dwight D. Andrews)

02b7666cd0e009ae1948f0647493339b.124.122 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #75When DWIGHT D. ANDREWS, then the youthful resident music director of the Yale Repertory Theater and a theology student, sat down with aspiring playwright AUGUST WILSON in 1984, it was a match made in theatrical heaven – and one that has lasted through the years, even beyond the playwright’s death. Andrews, now 57, sat in the rehearsal hall at the Huntington Theater recently reminiscing about that professional friendship that saw original music from Andrews for six of Wilson’s plays, and now for “FENCES” (which opens at The Huntington SEPTEMBER 11, with KENNY LEON at the helm who is popularly famous for directing “Puffy” Sean Combs in “A Raisin In The Sun” on Broadway and TV).d

Famed director (debut of LORRAINE HANSBERRY‘s “Raisin In The Sun” on Broadway) and the head, then of the Yale Repertory Theater, LLOYD RICHARDS had brought Wilson to Yale to stage “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (which would go on to Broadway and inaugurate the mighty decade by decade outpouring of plays about the Black experience in American in the 20th century). Taken from the title of a song by Ma Rainey, referring to the Black Bottom dance, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” takes place in a Chicago recording studio where she and her band members have arrived to record a new album of her songs. In an early form it had been staged in 1982 at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center where Richards also directed. The play is the only one of the ten-play cycle Wilson would eventually write that doesn’t take place in Pittsburgh and one of the five that was birthed at the Yale Repertory Theater.

“We sat in a small office, Lloyd, myself, and August, who held a yellow pad on which he would make notes,” recalls Andrews. “August was adamant that the actors had to be real musicians who could play the instruments. That was the first thing he said.” As a result of that edict, CHARLES DUTTON, a third year acting student at the drama school who was cast as a central character, Levee, moved in with Andrews to concentrate on learning to play the trumpet – Dutton and Andrews have remained close friends to this day. Wilson has famously said that his major influences are the four B’s – writers James Baldwin and Amiri Baraka, painter Romare Bearden, and the blues. “As a student of the music and the culture,” said Andrews, “I knew the music he wanted to know about, and also I was a student of religion and he always had questions about the Bible. Where is it in the Bible about the dry bones? he asked me at one point. (In Ezekiel 37: 1-3, there is the story of the resurrection of a dead nation from dry bones strewn in a valley.) Eventually that reference found its way into ‘Joe Turner’s Come And Gone.’ Wilson takes such references for his own purpose in a fascinating way.” The music for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” reflects both an early jazz period that Ma Rainey sang and a more sophisticated jazz from the next generation that Levee wants to play. Andrews says the first problem was to recreate Ma Rainey’s bluesy sound “in a way that would be effective for the 1980s. To that ear, her authentic sound would come across as crude and antique. She was one step out of the tent shows and one foot out of minstrelsy. Then there was Levee’s music so we needed a sound that points up that he’s the new music, the Louis Armstrong figure, and she’s the old. I poured over thousands of historical recordings and the other blues singers so I could come up with the music, the style, and continuity with the past.

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