Arizona Theatre Company – Christina Ham
Feb. 17, 2022
In this episode of the Art in the 48 podcast, host Craig Bohmler remembers the legacy of Nina Simone and delves into how the Arizona Theatre Company will bring life to Simone’s words.
“Life is short,” Simone said. “People are not easy to know. If you don’t tell them how you feel, you’re not going to get anywhere.”
Nina Simone was best known as the searingly powerful, unrestrained musical voice of America’s civil rights’ movement.
After a journey struggling to be classically trained in piano, she reflected on the fact that there were no Black professional pianists, something attributed to racism in the South.
Throughout her career, Simone refused to call herself a jazz musician, although often she is mistaken as such. She referred to herself as a Black classical pianist, whose music was inspired by and meant for Black people.
“To most white people, jazz means Black and Black means dirt, and that’s not what I play.” Simone said. “I play Black classical music.”
An icon in the civil rights movement, Nina’s song Four Women portrayed Black women as more than the stereotypes typically associated with them. She claimed critics often missed the point of the famous song, which later inspired the musical of the same name, written by Christina Ham and played by the Arizona Theatre Company.
The Arizona Theatre Company seeks to bring Arizonans together by providing theatrical experiences which tell stories that are relevant in today’s society.
Christina Ham’s Nina Simone, Four Women, explores the turbulent times of the civil rights movement through the eyes of Simone. Performed by the theatre company, the story allows the audience a chance to reflect on the social justice issues we still face, even today.
Simone’s profound legacy is remembered by the Arizona Theatre Company, and by many modern-day equal rights activists.