NINA SIMONE: FOUR WOMEN at South Coast Repertory

Arie Bianca Thompson, Chibuba Osuala, Jennifer Leigh Warren and Meredith Noël. Photo by Jenny Graham.

Deborah Klugman – Stage Raw

A young Nina Simone never aspired to be a singer. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, the sixth of eight children, she studied classical piano as a child, her training paid for by the white employer of her mother, a Methodist minister who worked part-time as a housekeeper. Later she attended Juilliard on funds raised by people in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, and in 1951 applied to the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia — but was rejected (in a brutal, unmistakably racist message from the Establishment), despite her overwhelming talent. With no money and needing to support herself and her family, Simone began playing piano in clubs in Atlantic City — then was told she would have to sing if she wanted to keep her job. She complied, and the career of an American musical legend was launched. Read more…

Through October 23