COMING 2018 INTERVIEW WITH THE HIGH PRIESTESS:NINA SIMONE ~ ORIGINAL PLAY


an Original Play by Robert J. Carmack – Black History Month

COMING  to the Los Angeles area  February 2018

The Actors

Ms. Jana Wilson as

High Priestess Nina Simone

~in Loving Tribute~

 

 

 

 

 

Robert J. Carmack as    the Reporter~Karl Lee

written,produced and directed ~R.J.Carmack

Music-Poetry-Drama

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“posted by  Robert J. Carmack   #blues2jazzguy

NINA early 60sSIMONE

early 1960s

With the upcoming production of NINA, a so-called biopic surrounding the life and loves of Nina Simone. There is tremendous opposition to the film from all sides and motives. It certainly has been no secret how I felt about the casting of Zoe Saldana in the starring role.I can’t speak for everybody who objects, but my reasons are not about just the pigmentation of the actress’s skin.  It also goes to the arrogant notion that you could make a valid movie about such a historical and iconic figure without involving the family.

 

NINA 1965NOW NATURAL

Seen in 1965, Nina was among the first to sport a Natural..

Also, making the movie about a love story between an artist who very name commands a certain amount of respect and truth when depicting her contributions. The whole notion of this movie  I’m told, it’s not a “Real” biographical picture. A vehicle with her name, background, artistic position and exploitation of another prominent African-American artist, All to pad the pocketbook of a few individuals.  In my humble opinion, I would have cast Viola Davis since the acting quality is needed more than beauty.(No Disrespect) One can easily ask , Why should you care if Hollywood wants to make money , who are we??  I disagree with the notion, Hollywood can do what it wants. Again my issue is when I was a young lad who left the south and away from Jim Crow in 1960 with my parents teaching us about respect and not to hate even though we were being hated and oppressed.I Experienced many of the same things Nina experienced while growing up in the racist South. I always saw NIna Simone as more than just an entertainer. I saw her liken to an Out-front radical black woman, unafraid of consequences or “what if I can’t get a check anymore??” Unlike today’s stars who are flimsy, uninvolved, unless there is some money or free publicity. She was just like Harry Belafonte, and a few others really into it, Out front, not suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.  By1965 , She was the first male or female entertainer I saw with the natural hair Style.

The first time I heard her sing on record, It was something different about her style and sound when she played the piano. I was only about 12 or 13 years old at the time I began hearing the song, “I Put A Spell On You”, Most of her albums  and concerts in the early years were centered around the blues and folk songs with mix of jazz standards. As we got past 1965, her involvement in the Civil Rights movement expanded.. remember this was not just a photo-op  moment for her, she was right there with the Evers, Kings, and the many nameless people who put their lives on the line. Even as a little girl about to perform a very important concert and audition for a very prestigious music school in Philadelphia. Her parents came all the way from the south to see her and got seats up front when the hall’s staff informed them they had to move to the rear of the theater.. at that moment Little Nina became a woman when she absolutely refused to perform unless her parents were brought back to their seats upfront. She was obliged by management of the theater after the embarrassing moment for that Philadelphian school. Though her performance  during the audition was sublime and quite stellar, they did not accept her into the school. (They tried decades later to make it up to her by offering her an Honorary Doctorate degree, after she was quite famous and near the end of her illustrious career.) She then wound up applying  and enrolling into Julliard school of music in New York. She excelled there until she could no longer afford the high fees. She found work in clubs and the cafes in the Village” and taught students piano to survive in the “Apple”.

I always loved pretty much all of her recordings, but enjoyed her even more whenever I could see her live on stage or at a festival. Her legacy should not be tarnished by this fake movie about a love affair that never took place. The storyline can be plugged into anyone and really doesn’t justify using her namesake and legacy to pump out more garbage movies using a Black icon for leverage to market that brand. It’s not a black movie employing dozens of black people behind and in front of the camera. It’s a damn shame and an insult to Nina Simone family having the actress have to pile on hours of makeup to look black enough to film her as Nina Simone. The same black woman who fought this type of treatment where ever she went. She was not light enough, She was not pretty enough, her lips was too big or nose too wide..she certainly did not suffer from not knowing who she was and where she came from.

 

UNSPECIFIED - 1968: This studio portrait shows American pianist and jazz singer Nina Simone reclining on the floor circa 1968. Simone, whose deep, raspy voice made her a unique jazz figure and later helped chronicle the civil rights movement, died in her sleep on April 21, 2003 of natural causes after a long illness. She was 70.   (Photo by Getty Images)

The problem with today’s movie Producers is, they’re either too young or were not born at all when these types of icons were in their heyday and functioned with and without racist interaction.. IN THEIR HASTE TO GET BUTTS IN THE SEATS, QUALITY CASTING and DIRECTORIAL  EXPERIENCE  be damned! Many of the motivations and behaviors that would be exhibited through such a person as Nina Simone, would require not only great acting, but perhaps a person with similar looks and physical features that maybe have experienced those same experiences while trying “make it” in Hollywood. There are many women that fit that bill I’m sure. Portraying this woman is a beautiful actress who would have been better suited to play Dorothy Dandridge, Diane Carroll, or someone like that.  Why it’s not even believable under this present scenario..BUT, it’s already made now.

Two years ago when I was active on social media websites arguing in the threads about, who I thought should play her. Then, we had only heard rumors about “WHO” was actually chosen as Nina Simone. Names bounced around at the time were Viola Davis, India Arie, and even hip hop’s, Angie Stone just to name a few.. Davis or Arie would have sufficed big time!  I’ll leave it to the masses whether this movie sinks or swims. NINA is scheduled for an April release.

I have a strange feeling I’ll be talking about this again, possibly in May, to measure if “Nina” has the Legs to hang.

Zoe Saldana as NINA

Zoe Saldana as NINA

NINA SIMONE LEGACY~MISUNDERSTOOD??

HOWLIN’ BLUES and DIRTY DOGS ..BIG MAMA THORNTON STORY 2014 BEST PLAY


written & photographed by Robert J. Carmack  @blues to jazzguy

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Big Mama & Bardu Ali at the Juke!

Howlin’ Blues & Dirty Digs opened on Sunday, June 8.  The star of the play, Ms Jewell Tompkins IS Big MAMA. One of the first thing you notice as she moves into the spotlight, she is a full-figured woman, but not the hulking  six footer Big Mama was at the time. Even ballooning up to 300 pounds at one point in her hey day. The one thing that is clear, Jewell Tompkins  is a consummate thespian. She attacks the character by not trying do the obvious. a tortured soul, Willie Mae had many personalities. She showed the dignity of this blues-woman and how she had to do what she could to survive in a Man’s business. Even that was hard Because, “Singing the Blues” was a “Black thing” in the 40s & 50s. Many times she was up against some of the best blues people in the country. Muddy Waters, Lightning Hopkins, Lead Belly, Howlin’ Wolf, Mississippi John Hurt just to name a few.

I was able to liken her life story to another great  musician  with a bitter/sweet life, Charlie Parker. I was totally entertained from start to finish, and at times ,a little misty-eyed, because of her demise, by prejudice , racism, sexism, alcohol, and felonious Men.  She had to grow up so fast, she never had time to be a kid. Her education came in the back of Juke joints, boarding houses, and back seats of cars.

Jewell is able to take the well written script and embrace all of the beauty of Willie Mae Thornton.   In one scene , she’s on the road, Having fun playing the Blues, drinking and partying, Impresario Johnny Otis comes back into the club afterwards and say to the band, They’re not getting paid. Big Mama straightens her hat, walks into the club owner’s office, ask  in a low tone for the Money , and after he told her to get out of his face “telling him what to do with his money”

“I don’t want your Money, I want my Money”..she balled up her fist and used all 300 lbs of brute force on his unsuspecting body, until he submitted and gave up the money.. Lol! “I did what I had to Do!”    She had a Rep, for not “taking no mess off of nobody”. I again thought Carla Clark’s directing  was on point . Not going for the obvious and relying on the craftsmanship of the actors. many scenes were again reflecting what her “Inside” was all about. Mostly when  Big mama had to confront nefarious men about Money, relationships,etc.

Her father  was a real  mean man ,who abused her brother and her in their childhood, it was probably at the seat of her many problems.

 

 

Caliope 2 more

 

The singing by Tompkins is sublime, and at one point, reminded me of a young Aretha-like sound in her approach to the blues.. You feel the church presence in her life and that  resonated into the character.. I often found golden nuggets of acting skills in both cast in general, but especially in Jewell Tompkins performance. This play is too good to be missed, too good to not be recognized again by the L.A. drama critics when they hand out the awards for Best Play & Best actress.

Howlin’ Blues and Dirty Dogs is well supported by a veteran cast of ensemble players. Another stand out is Philip Bell , who portrays two characters, from L.A. music history  Bardu Ali and singer Johnny Ace . who, after becoming one of the hottest acts of the early 1950s Rhythm & Blues era, committed  suicide.   I highly advise you to RSVP or call ahead to theater regarding tickets, as there is limited seats available. For more information call 310-910-0392  or, email us at     perceptioniii@aol.com

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Philip Bell as Johnny Ace