Cast Complete for Harriett D. Foy-Led East Coast Debut of NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN at Arena Stage
Celebrating the life and music of Nina Simone, one of America's most iconic singers and civil rights activists, Christina Ham's provocative musical journey Nina Simone: Four Women makes its East Coast debut at Arena Stage. Set in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, in which four little girls lost their lives in 1963, Ham uses Simone's song "Four Women" as the framework to explore the songstress' shift from artist to artist-activist.
Joining the previously announced Harriett D. Foy (Broadway's Amelie and Mamma Mia, Arena's The Women of Brewster Place) as Nina Simone, the cast includes D.C.-area's Felicia Curry (Arena's Disgraced) as Sweet Thing and Theresa Cunningham (Round House Theatre's Caroline or Change) as Aunt Sarah, with Toni Martin (Broadway's Airline Highway) as Sephronia. Darius Smith (Signature's Jelly's Last Jam) will play Nina's younger brother Sam Waymon.
"The horrendous carnage of the Birmingham church explosion of 1963 became the fire for Nina Simone's fervent music of the civil rights era," shares Molly Smith. "Christina Ham's Nina Simone: Four Women breathes new life into the music of the High Priestess of Soul and is sure to resonate with the same power, urgency and passion that it did in '60s and '70s."
"The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church came at a cataclysmic time not only in the fight for civil rights, but also in Ms. Simone's battle to figure out who she was going to be as an artist," says Ham. "Nina Simone: Four Women attempts to capture that struggle as she pens what she considered to be her first civil rights song, 'Mississippi Goddam,' and how she stepped off the sidelines in the fight for racial equality and became an artist and activist on her own terms. Her songs 'Young, Gifted and Black,' 'Go Limp,' 'Old Jim Crow' and 'Four Women' capture a born again artist melded by the politics of her time."
"At the very moment of epiphany that compels her active and full commitment to the civil rights movement, Nina Simone: Four Women offers searing insights into the incomparable and uncompromising world of the international star and legend," shares Douglas. "The power of this soul-stirring musical journey serves as its own (re)call-to-action toward the universal goal of equality and equity."
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
Christina Ham (Playwright)'s plays have been developed and produced both nationally and internationally with the Kennedy Center, The Guthrie, Goodman Theatre and the Tokyo International Arts Festival, among others. Her play Four Little Girls was directed by Phylicia Rashad at the Kennedy Center to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. Christina is a two-time recipient of a McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting Award and a Jerome Fellowship from the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis. Her plays are published by Dramatic Publishing. A graduate of the University of Southern California with an M.F.A. in playwriting from the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television, Christina is a Core Writer of the Playwrights' Center and the playwright-in-residence at Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis. www.christinaham.com
Timothy Douglas (Director) directed Disgraced and King Hedley II at Arena Stage. D.C. credits include Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3), Two Trains Running, The Trip to Bountiful, Permanent Collection and A Lesson Before Dying (Round House); Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea (six Helen Hayes nominations) and Insurrection: Holding History (Theater Alliance); The Last Orbit of Billy Mars (Woolly Mammoth); and Much Ado About Nothing (Folger Theatre). Additional credits include the premiere of Rajiv Joseph's The Lake Effect (Silk Road Rising), Bronte: A Portrait of Charlotte (Off-Broadway) and the world premiere of August Wilson's Radio Golf (Yale Repertory). He has directed for Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, American Conservatory Theater, The Guthrie, Berkeley Repertory, Center Theatre Group, South Coast Repertory, Steppenwolf, Portland Center Stage, Berkshire Theatre Festival and Milwaukee Repertory. www.timothydouglas.org
Theresa Cunningham (Aunt Sarah) is excited to make her debut at Arena Stage. D.C.-area credits include Caroline or Change (Stillpointe Theatre, Round House); A Raisin in the Sun and If I Hold My Tongue (Compass Rose Theatre); Wiley and the Hairy Man (Imagination Stage); Once on This Island (Olney); Ain't Misbehavin' (Riverside Theatre); and Les Miserables and a Helen Hayes Award for The Color Purple (Toby's Dinner Theatre). Regional credits include I Dream (ALLIANCE THEATRE); Smokey Joe's Café (Atlanta Lyric Theatre); Three Sistahs (Horizon Theatre); Member of the Wedding and Seussical (Springer Opera House); True Story of the 3 Little Pigs (Theatre in the Square); Alice Thru the Wonderglass (Synchronicity Theatre); and Heartbeats (Aurora Theatre). Theresa studied musical theater at Syracuse University.
Felicia Curry (Sweet Thing) returns to Arena Stage after appearing in Disgraced. D.C.-area credits include OLIVÉRio, Chasing George Washington and Beehive (Kennedy Center); Ragtime, A Christmas Carol and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Ford's Theatre); Caroline or Change and This (Round House); Home (Rep Stage); Laugh and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson (Studio Theatre); Les Misérables (Signature Theatre); Imagination Stage; Adventure Theatre MTC; MetroStage; Olney; and Toby's Dinner Theatre. Regional credits include Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and The Mountaintop (Gulfshore Playhouse), Sister Act (Riverside Center) and The Color Purple (Virginia Repertory Theatre). New York credits include We Three Lizas (Joe's Pub) and The Brontes (NYMF). Felicia has received five Helen Hayes Award nominations and a RTCC Best Actress Award. She is a graduate of University of Maryland.
Harriett D. Foy (Nina Simone) appeared at Arena Stage in The Women of Brewster Place, The Piano Lesson, Polk County, From the Mississippi Delta and A Wonderful Life. Broadway credits include Amelie, Amazing Grace, The American Plan, Mamma Mia and Once on This Island. Off-Broadway credits include Rimbaud (BAM); On the Levee; Crowns (AUDELCO Award winner); Lone Star Love; Dinah Was; and Inside Out. Regional credits include Reunion (Ford's Theatre); The House That Will Not Stand (Yale Repertory/Berkeley Repertory, TBA Award winner); dance of the holy ghosts (Yale Repertory); Breath and Imagination (ArtsEmerson); LMNOP (Goodspeed), Ambassador Satch (Dubai); and Seven Guitars (Center Stage). Film/TV credits include Winter's Tale, Collateral Beauty, Welcome to the Wayne, Orange is the New Black, Rescue Me and Law & Order. She received her B.F.A. from Howard University. "WGATAP!" Twitter: @divafoyh. www.harriettdfoy.com
Toni Martin (Sephronia) of Milwaukee, WI, is thrilled to make her Arena Stage debut. Broadway credits include Airline Highway. Additional New York credits include Dream Ticket (NYC Fringe Festival). Chicago credits include Airline Highway (Steppenwolf Theatre) and A Raisin in the Sun (TimeLine Theatre) for which she won Best Supporting Actress from Black Theatre Alliance. Film/TV credits include NBC's Chicago Fire and Netflix's Gypsy. She received her B.F.A. from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. All praise goes to The Creator and much love to my friends and family who show up and support!
Darius Smith (Sam Waymon) makes his Arena Stage debut. Off-Broadway credits include Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin (NY City Center) and Futurity (ArsNova, Soho Rep). D.C.-area credits include Jelly's Last Jam, La Cage aux Folles, Soon (Signature); The Producers, The Little Mermaid, Once on this Island (Olney); and Choir Boy (Studio). Regional credits include His Eye is On the Sparrow (Portland Center Stage) and Choir Boy (Marin Theater Company, JAG Productions). His original works include Marcus Nate is Alive and Great and Still Living in Detroit, The Snowy Day, U.G.L.Y. Awards include NY City Center Music Directing Fellowship, San Francisco Theatre Critics Award for Outstanding Music Direction for Choir Boy, Signature Theatre Young Artist Citation and Bernard/Ebb Songwriting Competition Finalist. Upcoming productions include The Wiz (Ford's Theatre). Twitter/Instagram: @DSmithMusic. www.dariussmithmusic.net
The creative team for Nina Simone: Four Woman includes Music Director Darius Smith, Choreographer Dane Figueroa Edidi, Set Designer Timothy Mackabee, Costume Designer Kara Harmon, Lighting Designer Michael Gilliam, Sound Designer Matthew M. Nielson, Wig Designer Anne Nesmith, Stage Manager Christi B. Spann and Assistant Stage Manager Marne Anderson
For more information, visit arenastage.org/shows-tickets/the-season/productions/nina-simone-four-women.
Tickets for Nina Simone: Four Women are $40-90, subject to change and based on availability, plus applicable fees. For information on savings programs such as pay-your-age tickets, student discounts, Southwest Nights and hero's discounts, visit arenastage.org/shows-tickets/single-tickets/savings-programs. Tickets may be purchased online at arenastage.org by phone at 202-488-3300 or at the Sales Office at 1101 Sixth St., SW, D.C.
Connect with our shows beyond the performance at a post-show conversation with artists and staff-December 6, December 12, December 13 and December 19 following the noon performance; November 28 following the 7:30 p.m. performance; and December 21 following the 8:00 p.m. performance.
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Director Edgar Dobie, is a national center dedicated to American voices and artists. Arena Stage produces plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays and impacts the lives of over 10,000 students annually through its work in community engagement. Now in its seventh decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000.