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George C. Wolfe on His New Film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

The director and playwright on how he adapted August Wilson’s 1982 play into a feature film.

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Episode Notes

This week, Rumaan Alam talks with George C. Wolfe. Wolfe is a playwright, film director, and two-time Tony winner. His latest project, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, takes place in a single day of 1927, when trailblazing blues singer Ma Rainey and her band gather at a recording studio in Chicago, and tensions begin to rise. The film is out now, playing in select theaters and streaming on Netflix.

They talk about how Wolfe wanted to approach this project from the ground up, reimagining how the story would be told to fit its new form. He also explains how his own experience as an actor in college has informed the way he collaborates with professional actors today.

Then Rumaan and co-host June Thomas discuss what they found most surprising about the interview and discuss how they implement George C. Wolfe’s tactics into their own creative collaborations.

Send your questions about creativity and any other feedback to working@slate.com.
Podcast production by Morgan Flannery.

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