Complete Casting Announced for Karamu's SIMPLY SIMONE

Complete Casting Announced for Karamu's SIMPLY SIMONE

Karamu House, the oldest multicultural performing arts center in the country, continues its mission to produce socially-relevant, professional-quality entertainment.

Karamu President + CEO Tony F. Sias announced today complete casting for the regional premiere of Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone, created by Robert Neblett and David Grapes, with musical arrangements by Vince di Mura.

Directed by Caroline Jackson Smith, the cast features Sheffia Randall Dooley, Afia Mensa, CorLesia Smith, and Mariama Whyte all appearing as the music sensation and American icon Nina Simone at various stages of her life.

With music direction by Ed Ridley, Jr., Simply Simone opens in the historic Jelliffe Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio on September 14, 2017 and runs through October 8, 2017. For tickets, visit or call 216.795.7077.

Child prodigy. Jazz superstar. Civil rights activist. Political exile. Nina Simone was all of these things and more. One of the true divas of the twentieth century and a genuine musical powerhouse, Nina Simone defined a generation and defied classification. Silky, soulful and untamed, her voice will put a spell on you. Based on the turbulent life and rich artistic legacy of this musical genius, the score features definitive Nina Simone hits, such as "The Look of Love," "Sinner Man," "To Be Young, Gifted, and Black" and "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."

Simply Simone received its world premiere at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2008. Subsequent performances have been produced at Paul Robeson Theatre (Buffalo, NY), Kennedy Center's Page to Stage Festival (DC), Hattiloo Theatre (Memphis, TN), Atlanta's Theatrical Outfit, and Houston's Ensemble Theatre among others.

This production launches Karamu's 102nd consecutive season of producing theatre. It also marks the last play to be produced in the Jelliffe Theatre before the extensive renovation of the historic venue begins later this fall. Highlights of Karamu's 2017-2018 theatre season includes: the Ohio premiere of The Lake Effect by Rajiv Joseph, the regional premiere of Sassy Mamas by Celeste Bedford Walker, the American premiere of The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God by Lisa Codrington, and Passing Strange written by Stew and Heidi Rodewald.

In 1915, Oberlin College graduates Russell and Rowena Jelliffe opened the Playhouse Settlement in a Cleveland area called The Roaring Third. The Jelliffes wanted to build an environment where people of different races, religions, and social and economic backgrounds could come together to seek and share common ventures through the arts, and Karamu House was established as a gathering place for racially-diverse members of the surrounding community at that time. As the community became predominantly African American, Karamu responded with programs geared to their needs and interests. Today, Karamu is evolving to be reborn as a beating heart for the entire community, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identification, or age, as it embarks on its second 100 years, retaining its historical identity as "a place of joyful gathering." Core programs include a five-performance, socially-relevant and professional quality theatre season; arts education in drama/theatre, music and dance for all ages; and community programming, such as a lecture series, and spoken word and music performances, that invites participation and engagement, reflection, and a re-commitment to cultural values.

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