Nina Simone and Three Angry Birds

That of course, was not the title of the stage play I saw at Arena Stage but it is what came to mind last night.

Arena Stage was home to a passionate play featuring the thoughts and fears of women of Birmingham, Alabama minutes after the 16th Street church bombing in 1963.  It has nothing to do with the cartoon Angry Birds.  The backdrop was after white supremacist killed four little girls in a church (Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carol Denise Mcnair.); during our country’s Civil Rights struggle.

The story went deep into the suggested reasons for Nina Simones’ music, her pain and artistry.

Nina Simone: Four Women introduced me to her music, and a reminder of how far we have not come as Americans. Poverty, hate, ignorance, classism and racism is still here. The good news is that we can talk about it now. We can take shows like this one and have dialogue to uncover our misconceptions, issues and fails. People of color around the world still have problems with the shades of our complexions. This was amplified by the dialogue on several occasions. This is a thinking persons’ play. It was entertaining too but graphically hit some deep seated problems that haven’t healed since 1963.  Sitting dead center on the first row makes an impression on you.

I was not familiar with Nina Simone’s biography but some nuggets of it came out during this performance. The mix of traditional songs, hers, and Gospel was excellently done. Harriett D. Foy was believable as the diva herself. She scared me. The three birds that accompanied Nina Simone were outstanding. Theresa Cunningham “sang” that thing as Sarah. Toni L. Martin as the “High yella gal” named Sephronia did a great job making us feel the pain of color barriers within our own race. And Felicia “Sweet Thing” Curry was raw, hot and passionate in her role.

I love the performing arts at Washington, DC’s Arena Stage (the Mead Center for American Theater). The food is expensive but good. The arts are always excellent. One of the few reasons I haven’t moved away from this city.

If you can see this, take some friends, eat dinner, see this show and then discuss.

 

Rev. Kenn Blanchard is a professional speaker, writer, podcaster, and digital influencer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook He is the founder of Blanchard.Media and the GunPodcastNetwork.com