Northlight Theatre Critically Hailed “Nina Simone: Four Women” Continues Through March 2
Photo credit: Michael Brosilow
Northlight Theatre, under the direction of Artistic Director BJ Jones and Executive Director Timothy J. Evans, continues its 2018-19 season with Nina Simone: Four Women, written by Christina Ham and directed by Kenneth L. Roberson. Nina Simone: Four Women runs January 24 – March 2, 2019 at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd in Skokie.
In the aftermath of 1963’s 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, Nina Simone rocked the nation with “Four Women,” her tribute in song to the four little girls lost in the tragedy. Powerful anthems such as “Mississippi Goddam,” “Old Jim Crow,” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” followed, fueling the Civil Rights movement and transforming her public persona from songstress to activist. Celebrate Ms. Simone’s lasting legacy in this provocative and personal musical journey.
Artistic Director BJ Jones comments, “Nina Simone’s musical genius is undeniable, and her leadership in the Civil Rights Movement stems from her musical articulation of its principles and goals. Northlight audiences can expect to learn about Simone’s extraordinary talent and her discovery of her activist voice, which syncs with this moment in the Black Lives Matter movement. It also reveals how important women were in the Civil Rights Movement and how little credit they were given historically.”
The cast of Nina Simone: Four Women includes Melanie Brezill (Sweet Thing), Sydney Charles (Nina Simone), Deanna Reed-Foster (Sarah), Ariel Richardson (Sephronia), and Daniel Riley (Sam Waymon).
The creative team includes Christopher Rhoton (set design), Michael Alan Stein (costume design), Lee Fiskness (lighting design) and Lindsay Jones (sound design). The stage manager is Rita Vreeland and the dramaturg is Lauren Shouse.
Northlight’s production of Nina Simone: Four Women is supported in part by Alan Zunamon and Nancy Cunniff. The 2018-19 Season is supported by BMO Harris and ComEd, An Exelon Company.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Christina Ham (Playwright) has had plays developed and produced both nationally and internationally with the Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, Center Theater Group, The Guthrie Theater, Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Tony Award winning producer Arielle Tepper Madover off-Broadway at Theater Row, and the Tokyo International Arts Festival among many others. Christina is a two-time recipient of a McKnight Fellowship in Playwriting and a Jerome Fellowship from the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, the Marianne Murphy Women & Philanthropy Award in Playwriting, a MacDowell Colony Artist Residency, and a previous nominee for Center Theater Group’s Richard E. Sherwood Award for Distinguished Emerging Theater Artist. She has received commissions from the Kennedy Center, The Guthrie Theater, and Ensemble Studio Theatre/Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, among many others. Her plays are published by Dramatic Publishing, Heinemann, PlayScripts, Inc., Smith and Kraus, and Oberon Books. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California and holds an MFA in Playwriting from The UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television where she was a Graduate Opportunity Fellow.
Kenneth L. Roberson (Director) has directed Ethel (Alliance Theatre and Alabama Shakespeare Festival); Crowns, Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill (Arena Stage); Once on This Island (Baltimore Center Stage); Wycliffe Gordon’s Jazz a La Carte (Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival); Frog Kiss (Virginia Stage); Urinetown, Into The Woods and Pippin (Indiana University). Broadway and Off-Broadway choreography credits include: Avenue Q (Tony Award Best Musical), All Shook Up, Purlie, Colman Domingo’s A Boy and His Soul, John Lequizamo’s Freak, Seven Guitars and The Piano Lesson. TV and Film choreography credits include: HBO’s Lackawanna Blues, Preaching to the Choir, and John Lequizamo’s House of Buggin’ (Emmy nomination outstanding choreography). Also a performance artist, his one man shows have played New York Public Theatre, Joe’s Pub the Triad Theatre, and Baltimore Center Stage. A graduate of the University of Georgia, he is currently Professor of Practice at Indiana University in the Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance Department.
Melanie Brezill (Sweet Thing) is making her Northlight debut. Broadway and National Tours include The Book of Mormon and Mamma Mia!. Regional credits include: Little Shop of Horrors, Aida (Drury Lane); Last Stop on Market Street, My Wonderful Birthday Suit, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Chicago Children’s Theatre); Man In the Ring, Caroline, Or Change (Court); A Christmas Carol, Crowns (Goodman); The MLK Project (Writers); Yeast Nation (American Theater Company); Living Green (Victory Gardens); Once On This Island (Porchlight). TV Credits include: Empire. Next up: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf at Court Theatre.
Sydney Charles (Nina Simone) is an award-winning actress hailing from Chicago, who committed her life to acting after years in Corporate America. Select Chicago credits include: Flyin West (American Blues), Father Comes Home From the Wars (Goodman), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Court), Insurrection: Holding History (Stage Left), Lottery Day (Goodman, New Stages), three editions of The Fly Honey Show (The Inconvenience), Spamilton Chicago (Royal George), An Octoroon (Definition Theatre), The Wiz (Kokandy), Prowess (Jackalope), and Dessa Rose (Bailiwick Chicago). Her directing debut was with Wildclaw Theatre with their yearly Deathscribe Festival of Horror Plays, and she just served as Associate Director for The Shipment at Red Tape Theatre. TV/Web credits include: The Haven, The T, and Shameless (Showtime). She is proud to be an artistic associate with Firebrand Theater – the recently formed feminist musical theater company.
Deanna Reed-Foster (Sarah) is an Emmy Award and Jeff Award winning actress who is making her Northlight Theatre debut. She was last seen in SideShow Theatre’s HeLa. She has worked with many theaters in the Chicago area including Strawdog, Steppenwolf, Black Ensemble, Pulse Theatre, Court, Shattered Globe (ensemble member) and The New Colony (Ensemble Member). Deanna can be seen in a recurring role on NBC’s Chicago Fire and in several films including Widows, Last Flag Flying, Southside With You, and Roll Bounce.
Ariel Richardson (Sephronia) is making her Northlight Theatre debut. An alum of Oklahoma City University, Ariel received her BFA in Acting. She was most recently seen in Oak Park Festival Theatre’s production of African Company Presents Richard III. Other theatre credits include Southern Gothic (Windy City Playhouse) and An Octoroon (Definition Theatre Company). Her television credits include Empire (FOX Television Network) and The CHI (Showtime).
Daniel Riley (Sam Waymon/Music Director) is making his Northlight debut. Dan was last seen in American Blues Theater’s production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Jeff Award, Best Ensemble and Best Musical–Midsize). He has worked in theatre and cabaret with numerous groups in and around Chicago, most recently Paramount Theatre, Davenport’s Piano Bar, and the Ravinia Festival. Dan also coaches and accompanies soloists and choirs of all ages in many styles of music. He regularly sings at Holy Name Cathedral and with the Lakeside Singers, and can be seen Sunday mornings on WGN-TV singing for Mercy Home for Boys and Girls.
The Box Office is located at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Boulevard, in Skokie. Box Office hours are Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm, and Saturdays 12:00pm-5:00pm. On performance days, the box office hours are extended through showtime. The Box Office is closed on Sundays, except on performance days when it is open two hours prior to showtime.
Curtain times are: Tuesdays: 7:30pm (January 29 only); Wednesdays: 1:00pm (except February 20); and 7:30pm; Thursdays: 7:30pm; Fridays: 8:00pm; Saturdays: 2:30pm (except January 26); and 8:00pm; and Sundays: 2:30pm; and 7:00pm (January 27 and February 24 only).
Backstage with BJ: Nina Simone: Four Women
Friday, January 18 at noon
at Northlight Theatre
Backstage with BJ is a mid-day discussion with Artistic Director BJ Jones, featuring special guest artists, actors, directors and designers, offering behind-the-scenes insight into each production while it is still in rehearsal. Backstage with BJ for Nina Simone: Four Women will last approximately one hour. The event is free, but reservations are required. Visit https://northlight.org/events/backstage-with-bj/ to reserve your spot.
Arts & Activism: From Nina Simon to Steve Schapiro
Wednesday, February 13 at 7:00 pm
Free and Open to the Public
at Skokie Public Library
5215 Oakton St, Skokie
A collaboration from the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center and Northlight Theatre, learn about the intersection of art and social activism through a discussion of the music of Nina Simone and the photography of Steve Schapiro. Singer Nina Simone was known for her music and activism. Photographer Steve Schapiro tells stories of activism through his bold, documentary images. Artists from Northlight Theatre’s upcoming show Nina Simone: Four Women, and experts on the work of Steve Schapiro will discuss how Schapiro and Simone’s work defied norms in the civil rights movement and beyond. Activists and Icons: The Photographs of Steve Shapiro is currently on display at the Illinois Holocaust Museum.
Post Show Discussions will be held after the following performances:
January 29, February 14 and 21 following the evening performances and January 27, February 6, 10, and 13 following the matinee.
An Open Captioning performance will be held on Saturday, February 23 at 2:30pm.
Northlight Theatre aspires to promote change of perspective and encourage compassion by exploring the depth of our humanity across a bold spectrum of theatrical experiences, reflecting our community to the world and the world to our community.
Now in its 44th season, the organization has mounted over 200 productions, including nearly 40 world premieres. Northlight has earned 207 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations and 36 Awards, as well as ten Edgerton Foundation for New Play Awards. As one of the area’s premier theatre companies, Northlight is a regional magnet for critical and professional acclaim, as well as talent of the highest quality.
Northlight is supported in part by generous contributions from Allstate Insurance; the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation; Robert & Isabelle Bass Foundation; BMO Harris Bank; Henrietta Lange Burk Fund; The Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation; The Chicago Community Trust; ComEd, An Exelon Company; The Davee Foundation; Edgerton Foundation for New American Plays Award; Evanston Community Foundation; Full Circle Foundation; Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; Kirkland & Ellis Foundation; The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Melvoin Award for Playwriting; Modestus Bauer Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; Niles Township; The Offield Family Foundation; The Pauls Foundation; Room & Board; Sanborn Family Foundation; Dr. Scholl Foundation; The Shubert Foundation, Inc.; The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust; The Sullivan Family Foundation; and Tom Stringer Design Partners.
Featuring: Melanie Brezill (Sweet Thing), Sydney Charles (Nina Simone), Deanna Reed-Foster (Sarah), and Ariel Richardson (Sephronia), and Daniel Riley (Sam Waymon)
Creative Team: Christopher Rhoton (set design), Michael Alan Stein (costume design), Lee Fiskness (lighting design) and Lindsay Jones (sound design). The stage manager is Rita Vreeland and the dramaturg is Lauren Shouse.
Notes of Interest:
Director Kenneth L. Roberson is making his Northlight debut, as is the entire cast including Melanie Brezill (Sweet Thing), Sydney Charles (Nina Simone), Deanna Reed-Foster (Sarah), Ariel Richardson (Sephronia), and Daniel Riley (Sam Waymon).
Nina Simone: Four Women premiered at Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, MN in March 2016.
Born on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina, Nina Simone studied classical piano at the Juilliard School in New York City, but left early when she ran out of money. Performing in night clubs, she turned her interest to jazz, blues and folk music and released her first album in 1957, scoring a Top 20 hit with the track “I Loves You Porgy.” In the ‘60s, Simone expanded her repertory in exemplary fashion while becoming identified as a leading voice of the Civil Rights Movement. She later lived abroad and experienced major mental health and financial issues, though she enjoyed a career resurgence in the 1980s. Simone died in France on April 21, 2003.
Nina Simone’s song “Four Women” was released as part of her 1966 album Wild Is the Wind. It tells the story of four different African American women, each representing an African-American stereotype in society.