From the page to the stage, the process of becoming continues for Eunice: Star Shine and Clay, Oral Funk Poetry Theatre and Productions’ poetic drama co-written by Sierra and Nate Leone.
After casting the show in late September, the collaborative team of OFP Theatre & Productions and the University of Dayton Theater, Dance, and Performance Technology Program lead by Michelle Hayford have been in rehearsals ahead of a November 30 opening night.
“Everyone knows that if you’re interacting with Nina Simone in any form; it’s empowering and inspiring and challenges you in the moment you’re in,” says co-writer Sierra Leone of the play’s namesake Eunice Waymon, known internationally as Nina Simone. “She’s intense, her work is intense, but our goal is to do her justice and make her legacy, both her triumphs and tumult, real.”
Leone first encountered Simone in a 2003 article in Essence Magazine after the artist, Black activist, and High Priestess of Soul had died, “I went and bought all of her music that I could and spent at least two years straight listening to it.”
To watch members of the cast have that same experience with Simone as an artist is magical for Sierra Leone.
“For young artists to see her sacrificing everything to be involved in the Black Arts Movement with Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and pay the price for her art and activism, and having to embody that, that’s something I couldn’t do so Nate and I wrote it.”
The responsibility of embodying Simone’s story falls to a talented cast with all principle roles being portrayed by African Americans, which, Leone notes, is still a rarity in mainstream theater.
OFP Theatre & Productions’ theatrical debut is being directed by Michelle Hayford with support from her University of Dayton team, who are experts in the courageous task of bringing new work to the stage.
“We call Michelle ‘Dreamcatcher’ because of her willingness to stretch her staff and herself to make work that challenges both the audience and the cast/crew.”
Patrons and friends of The Signature: A Poetic Medley Show are invited to witness the world premiere of Eunice: Star Shine and Clay on November 30 and December 1 at the University of Dayton’s Boll Theatre. Join OFP Theatre & Productions for a night of theater that will inspire, empower, and challenge through music, poetry, and our current moment.
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