“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” Opens at College of Marin

Left to right: Mark Shepard of San Rafael as Sturdyvant; Carol Thomas of Marin City as Ma Rainey; and Dylan “Maui” Gowen as Levee. Photo by Robin B. Jackson.

Directed by W. Allen Taylor, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson. This brilliant and explosive piece explores the complicated world of Black musicians striving to make it in 1927 at the height of the classic blues recording era.
Carol  “Kelly” Thomas plays the lead role of Ma Rainey. A College of Marin student, Thomas enrolled last spring after a 30-year hiatus from school to realize her dream of becoming the first in her family to attend college.
College of Marin history professor Walter Turner says that Thomas brings extraordinary talent to the role of Ma Rainey.
“(She) is known in the Marin City community as a world-class vocalist and all around wonderful person,” he said.
Previously, she performed in “To Kill A Mockingbird” with the Fairfax Players and in shows with the San Rafael Swim and Racquet Club.  For 10 years, she sang with the Concerned Citizens of Marin City in shows that were produced to raise funds to give scholarships to high school students so they could go on to college.
Another actor is Jupiter Collins, 20, a College of Marin student who was born and raised in Marin City. He is a self-taught visual artist, who has been drawing since the age of three.  His designs CD covers, comic characters, tattoo designs and murals.
“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is the play that initiated Wilson’s famous 10-play cycle that chronicled the African American experience in each decade of the 20th Century.  In this play, Ma Rainey, “Mother of the Blues,” arrives at a Chicago recording studio with her band to record her latest songs; but this session produces much, much more.
Remaining performances will be Oct. 1, 2, 8, 9,15 and 16 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 10 and 17 at 2 p.m. at the Marin Fine Arts Theatre, Sir Francis Drake at Laurel Ave. in Kentfield. Tickets are $20 general admission and $15 for students and seniors. Call the box office at (415) 485-9385.

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