PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The weekend brought big honors for a made-in-Pittsburgh movie. “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” – filmed here and based on the play by August Wilson – won three NAACP Image Awards. Among them: Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture, awarded posthumously to Chadwick Boseman.
Ken Rice asked a well-known Pittsburgher who knew Boseman well to reflect on his all-too-brief career and what made him stand out.READ MORE: Johnson & Johnson Vaccine To Remain In Limbo While Officials Seek More Evidence
Vanessa German met Boseman almost 20 years ago when, fresh out of college, he came to Pittsburgh to direct a play he’d written for the former Kuntu Repertory Theater.
“He was like this brilliant light, this brilliant spirit,” said German.
Boseman cast German in the lead role. And as they worked together, they bonded.READ MORE: Multiple Ballot Questions Face Voters In This Year's Primary
“I loved him immediately,” German said. “And everybody knew it, everybody in the cast. He was one of the first really openly, demonstrably, loving, tender, Black men that I met in the art world. I wasn’t shy about the love and the respect that I had for him because I knew that he was an exceptionally, exceedingly rare and special human being.”
Many in Pittsburgh regard German similarly. Not only an actress and poet and activist but also a sculptor and creator of The Art House in Homewood, where anyone is welcome to come in and create.
The friend German calls Chad died of cancer before “Ma Rainey” was released, having kept his illness private. German says watching her friend’s final performance was heart-wrenching.
“I saw his craft, I saw the pureness of his talent coming through his body that had to be exhausted,” German said. “I can’t just see ‘Ma Rainey’, I see Chad and I know that he was sick and I think about what it is, where he gathered that magnificent energy to deliver a performance that is brutal and glorious… but I saw it through the lens of grief.”MORE NEWS: Parents Say Pine-Richland Head Football Coach Eric Kasperowicz And Entire Coaching Staff Will Not Return In Fall
As for The Art House, a fire badly damaged the home on Valentine’s Day, but here’s all you need to know about how much the home – and Vanessa German – are valued in this community. An online fundraiser for repairs reached its goal in two days and has now almost doubled. German says it will soon be back and better than ever.