World Premiere of THE CHAMPION Starts 10/11 at TheatreSquared
On October 11, a world premiere drama based on untold true events in the life of Nina Simone will begin performances at TheatreSquared. Written by Brooklyn-based playwright Amy Evans, whose extensive one-on-one interviews with Simone's former bandmates supplied the storyline and inspiration for the play, The Champion is the story of one high-stakes night in a small-town diner in North Carolina. Al Schackman, Simone's bandleader and 40-year collaborator, will attend the official opening night performance on October 13 and join in on guitar for an intimate concert post-show performance with the actor Joy Jones, who portrays Simone. Six weekly performances are scheduled Wednesday through Sunday, October 11-November 5, with single tickets now on sale at theatre2.org or (479) 443-5600. Season packages are also on sale, with five-play packages ranging from $79-194.
The Champion takes place in 1962, with Nina and her band holed up from a snowstorm in a small-town diner somewhere in North Carolina. As tempers flare and secrets surface, it seems the waitress at this small-town diner may soon bear witness to life-changing events. Suddenly, the door swings open, and the famous outsiders discover they're truly in unfriendly territory. This sharply drawn, exciting new play intimately captures a cultural icon and the turbulent era during which she rose to fame.
"It's thrilling to premiere this incisive, compelling new drama here in Northwest Arkansas-the very first of the many times this remarkable true story will be seen on the American stage," said T2 Artistic Director Robert Ford. "Nina Simone was larger than life, a trailblazer. They called her 'the High Priestess of Soul' because of the spell she cast through her music and sheer, inescapable presence. But on this rare night, she's intimate and vulnerable, bottled up with her closest collaborators in a hole-in-the-wall diner. Like Nina, as you'll soon see, Amy Evans is a storyteller of uncommon talent."
T2's production is directed by Reginald L. Douglas, artistic producer of City Theatre in Pittsburgh, who also directed the play when it was under development as part of the 2016 Arkansas New Play Festival. The cast includes Joy Jones as Nina Simone, along with Austin Ashford (All the Way), Cary Hite (Peter and the Starcatcher), Grant Hockenbrough, Bryce Kemph (Amadeus, Superior Donuts, among many), Curtis Longfellow, and Britney Walker-Merritte (Intimate Apparel).
The creative team for The Champion includes scenic designer Michael Riha, lighting designer Jorge Arroyo, costume designer Ruby Kemph, sound designer Sinan Zafar, properties master Brodie Jasch, and production stage manager Shannon Jones.
Performances are scheduled October 11-November 5, 2017, Wednesdays through Sundays at Walton Arts Center's Nadine Baum Studios (505 W. Spring St., Fayetteville, AR).
Monday, Tuesday: No Performances
Saturday: 2:00pm; 7:30pm
The first Friday performance (10/13) will include a $15 add-on concert by Joy Jones, performing songs by Nina Simone while accompanied by Nina Simone's longtime bandleader, Al Schackman, and a jazz trio. The second Friday performance (10/20) will also feature a special add-on concert performance for just $10, featuring Joy Jones and a jazz trio led by Jacob Hertzog. To reserve tickets for these add-on performances, call 443-5600.
The Champion contains occasional adult language and is recommended for ages 13+. The running time is 80 minutes with no intermission.
Through T2's Lights Up! For Access program, supported by the Walmart Foundation, SNAP benefit recipients can purchase $5 tickets and patrons under the age of 30 can purchase $10 tickets. For more, visit theatre2.org/lights-up.
Subscription packages for TheatreSquared's 2017/18 Season are also on sale. Subscription options include five-play packages starting at $79 and four-play packages starting at $67. Limited tickets are also available to T2's Opening Night Series on the first Friday of each production, which includes a catered reception and a champagne toast, as well as the Preview Saver Series on the first Wednesday and Thursday of each production. Subscriptions can be reserved by calling (479) 571-2785 or by visiting theatre2.org/subscribe.
Opportunities to Engage
The world premiere run of The Champion includes these free, public opportunities to meet the playwright and featured artists at Fayetteville Public Library:
Sat., Oct. 7, 2pm: Free masterclass with playwright Amy Evans at Fayetteville Public Library, supported by the Arkansas Arts Council (register at faylib.org)
Thurs., Oct. 12, 6pm: Amy Evans, Reginald L. Douglas, and Al Schackman will be featured in a free Artists Forum moderated by Kyle Kellams of Ozarks at Large in the Walker Community Room, and recorded for broadcast on KUAF 91.3fm
TheatreSquared is Northwest Arkansas' professional regional theatre, offering an intimate live theatre experience for 40,000 patrons each year in its 175-seat space and in schools throughout the state. TheatreSquared was recognized by the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards, as one of the nation's ten most promising emerging theatres. TheatreSquared has experienced remarkable growth in recent seasons, expanding its audience tenfold in the past five years. The theatre recently broke ground on a new 50,000 square-foot facility to be completed in mid-2019, and launched the $34 million Our Next Stage Campaign to support construction and a sustainable transition. Designs and campaign information are online at ournextstage.org.
Major funding for the TheatreSquared Season 12 is provided by The Walton Family Foundation, Inc.; the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Arts; the Walker Charitable Foundation; the Walmart Foundation; the Windgate Charitable Foundation; and by the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Major marketing support for TheatreSquared Season 12 is provided by Experience Fayetteville, , the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Fayetteville Flyer, Cox Communications, KNWA, CitiScapes, KUAF, and MailCo USA.