Nina Simone at a concert in Morlaix, France, May 1982.
Did you like what you saw of Regina Marie Williams at the 2015 Ivey Awards? Did you love the Regina-Christina combo and think it deserved a sequel? If so, you might want to be grabbing a set of tickets for the world premiere of Nina Simone: Four Women at Park Square Theatre on March 11. This new musical by Christina Ham features Simone’s music and Regina Marie Williams as the titular High Priestess of Soul, and unfolds against the prominent backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement.
Nina Simone (1933-2003) was a woman who did not mince her words, activities, or song lyrics. “My skin is brown, my manner is tough,” she sang in “Four Women,” adding, “I’ll kill the first mother I see, my life has been rough.” Not one to simply frown on injustice, she once drew a gun and fired on a recording executive for defrauding her of royalties (the royalties dispute continues many years after the singer’s death). Many of her songs became anthems for the Civil Rights Movement and several were directly inspired by related violent incidents and church burnings.
A particular feature of this play is its emphasis on female narratives and women’s solidarity. According to Ham, “The play looks at female solidarity through the lens of Nina Simone’s music. While it celebrates the life and music of this artist, it also looks at how her music helped to transform the Civil Rights Movement. Her importance has been blotted out of the history books.”
Previews for Nina Simone: Four Women run Tuesday, March 8, through Thursday, March 10. The show opens on March 11 and continues through March 26. Showtimes are 7:30 pm Tuesday through Saturday with 2 pm matinees on Saturday and Sunday. The show plays at Park Square’s Andy Boss Thrust Stage in downtown St. Paul.