BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND!
NINA SIMONE MUSICAL RETURNS
TO A NEW STAGE FIT FOR AN ICON

Karamu House fills the summer with the sounds of Nina Simone
in a musical profiling the life and music of the American icon.

SIMPLY SIMONE: THE MUSIC OF NINA SIMONE
July 18 – August 5, 2018
JELLIFFE THEATRE, 2355 EAST 89TH STREET, CLEVELAND, OH

Media Night is Friday, July 20, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.

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

Karamu remounts Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone from July 18 through August 5, 2018. Performances of this R&B musical journey created by Robert Neblett and David Grapes, and directed by Caroline Jackson Smith will be held in the newly renovated and historic Jelliffe Theatre located at 2355 East 89th Street, Cleveland, Ohio. Tickets range from $25-$50, and can be reserved online via www.karamuhouse.org or by calling 216.795.7077.

Simply Simone, musically directed by Ed Ridley, Jr., features Sheffia Randall Dooley*, Mary-Francis R. Miller, CorLesia Smith, and Mariama Whyte* all appearing as the music sensation and American icon Nina Simone at various stages of her life.

Tony F. Sias, President + CEO of Karamu House notes that “it is ironic that we open the production on July 18th which happens to be the 50th anniversary of the Hough Riots, one of many events that mark the civil rights movement throughout the United States. Nina Simone was a pioneer and inspirational leader who was courageous and steadfast in her stand for freedom and justice. Few marquee performers were as willing to use music as a vehicle for social commentary and change. Just as Simone was a major advocate for civil rights, Cleveland was a major artery of the civil rights movement."

One of the true divas of the 20th century and a genuine musical powerhouse, Nina Simone defined a generation and defied classification. Based on the turbulent life and rich artistic legacy of this American musical icon, the musical score compiled by Robert Neblett and David Grapes crosses genres from gospel to blues, to Broadway to rock and roll. This soulful musical journey features over 30 definitive Nina Simone hits such as “The Look of Love,” “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”

The public demand for an encore of our original regional premiere that opened the 102nd season in September 2017 was so strong that Karamu is bringing it to the stage again. The original production was the last play produced in the Jelliffe Theatre before the extensive renovation of the historic venue. It is very fitting that it returns for a reprisal immediately after the grand re-opening of the stage.

MEDIA
“...one leaves feeling uplifted and entirely satisfied.” - Buffalo News
“...impressive, intense and thrilling.” - Miami Herald
“...a magical performance.” – Cleveland Jewish News
“...Whyte handles her songs well, especially a spine-tingling version of “I Put a Spell on You.” - Cleveland Scene

ABOUT NINA SIMONE
Born on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina, Eunice Waymon studied classical piano at the Juilliard School in New York City. Simone taught piano and worked as an accompanist for other performers while at Juilliard, but she eventually had to leave school after she ran out of funds. Moving to Philadelphia, her career took an unexpected turn when she was rejected from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She later claimed the school denied her admittance because she was African-American. Turning away from classical music, she started playing American standards, jazz and blues in Atlantic City clubs in the 1950s. Before long, she started singing along with her music at the behest of a bar owner. She took the stage name Nina Simone— "Nina," derived from the Spanish word for “little girl,” which came from a nickname used by her then boyfriend; while "Simone" was inspired by French actress Simone Signoret. The performer eventually won over such fans as writers Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin.

Her first album in 1957 scored 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 enjoying a big career resurgence in the 1980s. In her final years, reports indicated that Simone was battling breast cancer. She died at the age of 70 on April 21, 2003, at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, France. Simone has inspired an array of performers, including Aretha Franklin, Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Lauryn Hill and Meshell Ndegeocello. Two documentaries on the musician's life were released in 2015: The Amazing Nina Simone, directed by Jeff L. Lieberman, as well as the Netflix original What Happened, Miss Simone?, directed by Liz Garbus, which received an Oscar nomination for best documentary. Simone was also depicted by actress Zoe Saldana in the 2016 biopic Nina.
- excerpt from A&E Biography

“There's no other purpose, so far as I am concerned, for us except to reflect the times, the situations around us, and the things we're able to say through our art, the things that millions of people can't say. I think that's the function of an artist and, of course, those of us who are lucky, is to leave a legacy so that when we're dead, we also live on.”
- Nina Simone

ABOUT THE CREATORS
Returning to the helm of the Karamu production is CAROLINE JACKSON SMITH, professor of theater and Africana studies at Oberlin College. Caroline directed the 2011 production of Ruined at Karamu. A recipient of the prestigious 1993 fellowship for early career directors from the Theater Communications Group/National Endowment for the Arts, Jackson Smith made her New York debut at the New York Public Theater in 1995, when she directed Adrienne Kennedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro for the Signature Theater Company. A graduate of Yale University, Jackson Smith served as the executive director of the Yale Afro-American Cultural Center for eight years. Select credits in directing include The Gospel at Colonus, The Tapestry, The Resurrection of LadyLester, Darker Face of the Earth, and The Colored  Museum among many other. Also returning to lead the musical aspects for the production is ED RIDLEY, JR. whose Karamu productions include Passing Strange, Sister Act, The Wiz, Leap of Faith, It Ain’t Nothin But the Blues, The Color Purple, and Caroline or Change among many others. Other credits include: Ain’t Misbehavin, Blues in the Night, Five Guys Names Moe, Crowns, Mahalia, Cuttin’ Up, The Piano Lesson, and Love, Janis. Ed serves as music director for the Christian Fellowship Center Church and is also on the music faculty at the Eastern Campus of Cuyahoga Community College. His versatility and talent as a performer have allowed him to accompany such great artists as Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Walter Hawkins, Jon Hendricks, and Clark Terry. Co-creator ROBERT NEBLETT is a versatile theatre artist, scholar, and educator with over 20 years of professional experience. Other works for the stage include Dracula: The Case of the Silver Scream Roundabout, A Wrinkle in Time, The Thirty-Minute Lysistrata, and Alice in Wonderland. He has served as founding artistic director of (Mostly) Harmless Theatre in St. Louis, MO, and Inevitable Theatre Company in Dallas, TX, where he produced and directed the local and regional premieres of groundbreaking works such as The Laramie Project, Fuddy Meers, Four Modern Noh Plays, Jordan, and Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead. Co-creator DAVID GRAPES II is an award-winning director, actor and playwright, and is the creator/co-author (with Todd Olson) of four musical revues including My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra, Christmas My Way: A Sinatra Holiday Bash, Moon River: Johnny Mercer’s American Songbook, and I Left My Heart: A Salute to the Music of Tony Bennett. His film noir play Dracula: The Case of the Silver Scream (co-created with Robert Neblett) had its world premiere at
Tennessee Rep in 2003. During his 30-year career in the theatre, David has produced over 800 major productions that span nearly every genre of dramatic literature.

ABOUT KARAMU HOUSE
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.

FACT SHEET

EVENT: 
Karamu House’s Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone

DATES:
Wednesday, July 18 through Sunday, August 5, 2018

Performances on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 PM.
Performances on Sundays at 3:00 PM.
* Post-show conversations on 7/29 and 8/5

VENUE: 
Jelliffe Theatre, 2355 East 89th Street, Cleveland, Ohio 44106

FEATURING: 
The ACTING COMPANY includes:
Sheffia Randall Dooley*
Mary-Francis R. Miller
CorLesia Smith
Mariama Whyte*
* denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors in the US

CREATIVES:
The CREATIVE TEAM includes:

CREATORS Robert Neblett and David Grapes
DIRECTOR Caroline Jackson Smith
MUSIC DIRECTOR Ed Ridley, Jr.
MUSIC ARRANGEMENTS Vince di Mura
STAGE MANAGER Xavier P. Khan
SCENIC & COSTUMES Inda Blatch Geib
SOUND DESIGN Cyrus Taylor
LIGHTING DESIGN Colleen Albrecht
CHOREOGRAPHY Treva Offutt
ORIGINAL PROPS DESIGN Dred Geib
PRODUCTION ASST. Johnathon L. Jackson
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR Prophet D. Seay
LINE PRODUCER Nathan A. Lilly
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER Tony F. Sias

SUMMARY:
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 20th century and a genuine musical powerhouse, she defined a generation and defied classification. Based on the turbulent life and rich artistic legacy of this American musical icon, the score crossesgenres from gospel to blues, to Broadway to rock and roll. This R&B musical journey features definitive Nina Simone hits such as “The Look of Love,” “My Baby Just Cares for Me,” “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.”

RUNNING TIME:
The play runs approx. 2 hours, including one 15-minute intermission.

TICKET INFO:
Simply Simone will be performed in Karamu’s newly renovated, historic Jelliffe Theatre located at 2355 East 89th Street, Cleveland, Ohio. Tickets range in price from $25 –$50. Groups of 20+ save more on single ticket prices. To order please call 216-795-7077 or visit karamuhouse.org.

PRESS RELEASE ATTACHED
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kevin kelly,
Jul 16, 2018, 2:03 PM