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Tarra Conner jones / Photo by Salvatore Brancifort

For those who’ve watched—and heard—Tarra Conner jones (yes, that’s a lowercase “j”) perform in Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe shows from Cotton Club Cabaret to The Color Purple, it may be hard to believe that the confident, big-voiced singer-actress and former teacher is always nervous before she goes onstage. “I say all the prayers I can say beforehand,” says jones, “but once I get onstage and the lights come up, all that melts away.” For her next role, as legendary singer Ma Rainey in WBTT’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, jones feels her biggest challenge is adapting her ballad-style delivery to Rainey’s blues sound. “I’ve been listening to her a lot, to see how she did things,” she says. “I want to be true to that person.”

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom runs Jan. 13 through Feb. 20; for tickets call 366-1505 or go to westcoastblacktheatre.org.

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