March 22, 2012

Authentic Instruments for MA RAINEY'S

Glenn Turner, Jason Bowen, G. Valmont Thomas, and
Charles Weldon in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,
photo: T. Charles Erickson
Music is a major component of our current production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom -- the contrast between the old style of blues and the new, the opportunities it can afford its performers, and the act of performance. An audience member at last night's show asked about the authenticity of the onstage instruments, and Justin Seward, our props assistant, explains:

"We consulted a brass specialist at Rayburn music who to confirm that the instruments we had selected are of the correct vintage. We made the design choice to keep them in decent condition in order to convey that these musicians take pride in their instruments. From the stage they look more pristine than they actually are, when in fact they are slightly tarnished with dings here and there. If they were shined and polished, they would gleam too brightly under the stage lights."

The Huntington Theatre Company's presentation of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom plays now through April 8, 2012 only at the B.U. Theatre. Get tickets and information or call our Box Office at 617 266 0800.

Students' Reactions to a Recent Performance of MA RAINEY'S

We recieved this wonderful note from a instructor/actress who brought her students to a recent performance of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom:

Apart from thank yous from me and my Bunker Hill students that attended Ma Rainey's..., I want you to know that it mattered immensely to them. One student (an articulate, sensitive, intelligent, terrific guy of about 30) had never seen a play. He was blown away!!!!! Another fellow, from Guatemala - (ditto regarding attributes) had never seen a play in this country and had only ever seen musicals in Guatemala. Most of the students had only seen "musicals" via high school or other venues. The black students I think could especially relate to the characters --- as could the musicians (of which there were a few in the group.) 

Jason Bowen in
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,
photo: T. Charles Erickson
They were so impressed with the actors. They valued everyone of them -- and especially Levee - what a really gifted, skilled actor ---and his antagonist, Toledo, and Ma Rainey. They couldn't get over how believable ALL the fellows in the band were. I thought the bass player, with perhaps the least rewarding role - was just amazing ---and others thought the band leader did an amazing job of trying to provide a balance (as the bass player did as well) The rapport between the musicians was wonderful. True ensemble acting.

They appreciated that the play - after the first act where not so much seems to be happening - in the second act, built on everything that had come before. I was proud of their observations.

Taking students to Ma Rainey's was a wonderful experience and we thank you, Huntington. You all did a very good thing for my students. Those that couldn't make it were so inspired (and clearly felt they'd really missed out) listening to everyone else talk about the play in both classes -- a few have said they're going to figure out a way to go on their own so hopefully, they'll get themselves there! (Last year, a student who had never seen theatre but that I took to his first play---the very next night brought his brother to see it!)

- D. Sorbello - Instructor/Actress

Learn more about bringing students to Huntington productions by contacting Meg Wieder at 617 273 1558.

The Huntington Theatre Company's presentation of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom plays now through April 8, 2012 only at the B.U. Theatre. Get tickets and information or call our Box Office at 617 266 0800.

March 20, 2012

What Audiences Are Saying About MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM

Have you seen Ma Rainey's Black Bottom?
Please share your comments with us.

  • Wilson's play is rich with themes. Which ones resonated with you?
  • What do you think happens to these characters after the curtain comes down?
  • Have you seen other August Wilson plays at the Huntington or elsewhere? What are your memories of them?
  • Did you attend a post-show conversation? What comments surprised you or made you think differently about the play? Would you attend a post-show conversation again? What were you thinking about on the way home from the theatre?

The Huntington Theatre Company's presentation of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom plays now through April 8, 2012 only at the B.U. Theatre. Get tickets and information or call our Box Office at 617 266 0800.

March 16, 2012

A Message from Michael Maso in the Aftermath of the Great Back Bay Blackout

As most of you know the power outage in the Back Bay had Huntington Avenue as its epicenter, and as a result we lost the Tuesday preview and Wednesday opening night performances of Ma Rainey. In addition to the BU Theatre our administrative operations and key servers were shut down, leaving us without any email or box office capability. Many of us used the Calderwood Pavilion as a base of operations for the past few days, with tables in the upper lobby and nomadic staff members at makeshift stations with iPads and phones plugged in everywhere.

Early yesterday morning we realized that we were at risk of losing Thursday night's performance as well, and so I reached out to the Mayor's office for help getting a generator from NStar. Thanks to the Mayor's office and to NSTAR a generator arrived just before 1 PM at the BU Theatre and power was restored to the BUT at 5:00 last night! With a heroic effort by cast and crew and staff we were able to have a full performance last night starting at 8:00 PM — only 30 minutes late, though box office systems were still incapacitated.

While Sondra Katz and Todd Williams were the key point people for most of us, the department heads contacted the rest of the staff. Peter and the rest of the Artistic department plowed ahead with key season planning meetings while General Management kept our artists in the loop and as comfortable as possible, with one show in suspension and another in rehearsal.

As usual it was our Production Manager Todd Williams who was on the call in the wee hours of this morning when full power was finally restored and shortly afterwards working with EMF and our audience services team to get the box office up and running. Production staff continued to prep for our next show as much as possible and of course were on call at the theatre as our power was in the process of being restored by generator yesterday and quickly got the show restored in the BUT.

Marketing, development, audience services and front of house kept our communications open to audience and donors alike — much of it through our Facebook account but also by being at the theatre to greet those few who didn't get the cancellation notices — with the result that when we did decide to go ahead last night we had a great house full of happy people delighted that we were able to get the show back and running!

At the present time things are better — our box office systems are up and running on-line, and our inbound phone services are finally working in the box office as well as our administrative offices. Moving forward, press is being encouraged to come to the show beginning tonight and so reviews should be forthcoming beginning Monday morning. Many thanks to our remarkable staff, so many of whom maintained key operations over the past few days, to those who stood by to be ready to restore systems once power came back, to the Pavilion staff for being gracious hosts during the invasion from Huntington Avenue. The truth is that every staff member we have who had an opportunity to contribute did so admirably and with great energy and commitment, as they always do. Peter and I know how fortunate we are to have a staff with such deep reserves of dedication, integrity and sheer professionalism.

Very warmest regards,

March 8, 2012

Seeking Performers and Performing Arts Groups for the May Fair Performance Challenge!

As part of the launch for the 2012 Emerging America festival, the Huntington Theatre Company is seeking performance groups to participate in the May Fair Performance Challenge, a fun event aimed at showcasing the creative skills of local Boston performers.

First, develop a piece from a provided short script and quirky style inspired by the upcoming Emerging America offerings.

Second, on May 6, engage in a fun-filled scavenger hunt in Harvard Square to assemble additional components to creatively incorporate into your performance.

Finally, perform your 5 to 10-minute piece on the Emerging America Stage at May Fair for the crowd and a panel of judges. The winners take home a fabulous prize!

Both individual artists and companies are invited to apply. Groups must be comprised of 2-6 people.

For more information, email Marketing Professional Intern Solange Garcia at


Learn more about the music of MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM and playwright August Wilson's obsession with the blues from director Liesl Tommy and members of the cast, including Jason Bowen, Yvette Freeman, and G. Valmont Thomas. For more information, visit

March 6, 2012

We've Received 39 IRNE Award Nominations!

We've received 39 IRNE Award nominations from the Independent Reviewers of New England, which recognized each our 2011 productions. The 39 nominations are five more than we received for our 2010 productions and more than twice as many as any other company in New England.

The cast of Candide, photo: T. Charles Erickson
Our September-October 2011 production of Leonard Bernstein’s glorious musical Candide received 13 nominations, more than any other production of 2011, and was nominated in every category in which it is eligible: 

March 5, 2012

23 High School Students Advance to this Sunday's Finals of Poetry Out Loud

CONTACT: Rebecca Curtiss, / 617 273 1537



(Boston) – Twenty-three students from the 72 semi-finalists that competed last weekend have advanced to Sunday’s State Finals in the national Poetry Out Loud (POL) spoken word competition. Sunday’s winner will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC to compete in the National Finals May 13-15. The Huntington facilitates the Massachusetts competition with support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

The State Finals, to be held Sunday, March 11, will begin at 9:30am at the Old South Meeting House (301 Washington Street, Boston), site of the historic meeting of colonists that led to the Boston Tea Party and a continued haven of free speech today. The competition is free and open to the public.

Competing students include:

Haley Berube, Doherty Memorial High School (Worcester)
Molly Brennan, Sturgis Charter Public School East (Hyannis)
Ashly Brun, Malden High School (Malden)
Christa Celestin, Revere High School (Revere)
Liliana Costa-Smith, Meridian Academy (Brookline)
Meredith Derecho, Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School (Sudbury)
Rebekah Dowdell, Springfield Central High School (Springfield)
Noelani Gabriel, Springfield High School of Science and Technology (Springfield)
Micaela Garrison-Desany, Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School (Marlborough)
Nicholas Gilfor, Wilbraham and Monson Academy (Wilbraham)
Dariana Guerrero, Math, Science & Technology High School at Lawrence High (Lawrence)
Stephanie Igharosa, Randolph High School (Randolph)
Ezra Marcus, Monument Mountain Regional High School (Great Barrington)
Diana Milkey, Sturgis Charter Public School West (Hyannis)
Michaela Murray, John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics & Science (Roxbury)
Meredith Omer, Acton-Boxborough Regional High School (Acton)
Aurelia Paquette, Boston Latin School (Boston)
Sarah Pizzano, Stoneham High School (Stoneham)
Chelsea Rivera, Global Learning Charter Public School (New Bedford)
Danielle Robbins, Algonquin Regional High School (Northborough)
Emma Rogalewski, Falmouth Academy (Falmouth)
Jessica Seng, Dracut Senior High School (Dracut)
Ariana Yates, Worcester Technical High School (Worcester)

Poetry Out Loud (POL) is a national recitation competition that celebrates the power of the spoken word and a mastery of public speaking skills while cultivating self-confidence and an appreciation of students’ literary heritage as they take poetry from the page to the stage. Since its inception seven years ago, Poetry Out Loud has inspired hundreds of thousands of high school students to discover and appreciate both classic and contemporary poetry.

A record 20,000 students from 81 Huntington-supported high schools across the Commonwealth competed in recent months in classroom and school-wide competitions. A complete list can be found at the end of this release.

The Finals will be hosted by playwright, filmmaker, and performing artist Mwalim, who will also perform, along with poet Dr. Daniel Thomas Moran. Massachusetts Representative Alice Peisch, House Chair of Joint Committee on Education, will speak. The Finals will be judged by Huntington Playwriting Fellow Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro (Before I Leave You); Michael Curry, attorney and president of the Boston NAACP; teacher and dancer Mayra Hernandez; and poet and professor of dentistry Moran. Huntington Overseer Katherine Jones will serve as Prompter.

“Poetry Out Loud creates an incredibly powerful sense of community in our school,” says Burlington High School English teacher Benjamin Lalley. “For weeks after the competition, I still hear students telling each other, ‘You did a great job. You really knocked that one out.’ From performers to student athletes to ESL students, everyone gets engaged in our school-wide celebration of poetry.”

“The Huntington is proud to lead Massachusetts’ support of Poetry Out Loud,” says Huntington Theatre Company Artistic Director Peter DuBois. “Its growth over the years speaks to its success. Poetry Out Loud provides a forum for the next generation of orators and creative voices to be heard.”

About Poetry Out Loud:
Recitation and performance are major new trends in poetry. There has been a recent resurgence of poetry as an oral art form, as seen in the slam poetry movement and the immense popularity of hip-hop music. Poetry Out Loud builds on that momentum by inviting the dynamic aspects of slam poetry, spoken word, and theatre into the English class. The NEA and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with state arts agencies to support the expansion of Poetry Out Loud, which encourages the nation's youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. This exciting program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage. The Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Huntington sponsor the Massachusetts contest; the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation sponsor the competition on the national level.

Learn more about Poetry Out Loud at

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About the Huntington Theatre Company:
Since its founding in 1982, the Huntington Theatre Company has developed into Boston’s leading theatre company. Bringing together superb local and national talent, the Huntington produces a mix of groundbreaking new works and classics made current. Led by Artistic Director Peter DuBois and Managing Director Michael Maso, the Huntington creates award-winning productions, runs nationally renowned programs in education and new play development, and serves the local theatre community through its operation of the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA. The Huntington is in residence at Boston University. For more information, visit

About the Massachusetts Cultural Council:
The Massachusetts Cultural Council is a state agency that promotes excellence, access, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences, in order to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and contribute to the economic vitality of our communities. The MCC is committed to building a central place for arts and culture in the everyday lives of communities across the Commonwealth. The Council pursues this mission through a combination of grants, services, and advocacy for cultural organizations, schools, communities, and artists.

2012 Participating High Schools:
Acton Boxborough Regional High School
Algonquin Regional High School
Advanced Math and Science Academy Charter School
Amherst Regional High School
Artovotion/Teen Empowerment
Avon Middle High School
Barnstable High School
Berkshire School
Boston Adult Technical Academy
Boston College High School
Boston Latin School
Brookline High School
Burlington High School
Claremont Academy
Codman Academy Public Charter School
Covenant Christian Academy
Dartmouth High School
Dennis Yarmouth Regional High School
Dexter School
Doherty Memorial High School
Dracut Senior High School
East Boston High School
Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers
Everett High School
Fairhaven High School
Falmouth Academy
Fitchburg High School
Framingham High School
Francis W Parker Charter Essential School
Global Learning Charter Public School
Groton-Dunstable Regional High School
Harwich High School
Haverhill High School
Hingham High School
Humanities and Leadership Development High School at Lawrence High School
The John Dewey Academy
John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science
Leominster High School
Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School
Malden High School
Masconomet Regional High School
Math, Science & Technology High School at Lawrence High
Melrose High School
Meridian High School
Minnechaug Regional High School
Monument Mountain Regional High School
Mt. Everett Regional High School
Needham High School
Newburyport High School
Newton North High School
New Mission High School
Old Rochester Regional High School
Peabody Veterans Memorial High School
Pittsfield High School
Presentation of Mary Academy
Prospect Hill Academy Charter School
Provincetown High School
Putnam Vocational Technical High School
Randolph High School
Revere High School
Rockland High School
Salem Academy Charter School
Saugus High School
South Hadley High School
South Shore Charter Public School
Southfield School
Sparhawk School
Springfield Central High School
Springfield High School of Science & Technology
Stoneham High School
Sturgis Charter Public School East
Sturgis Charter Public School West
Swampscott High School
Tyngsborough High School
Waltham High School
West Springfield High School
Westfield High School
Whitman-Hanson Regional High School
Wilbraham and Monson Academy
Wilmington High School
Worcester Technical High School