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“An artist’s responsibility is to reflect the times,” Nina Simone famously said, and in the aftermath of 1963’s 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, Simone responded to the tragedy with her most visceral anthems: the furious “Mississippi Goddam,” the majestic “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” and the ground-breaking “Four Women.”
Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte is running “Nina Simone: Four Women,” Jan. 24-Feb. 16. Written by Christina Ham, the play dramatizes the title song’s characters: Aunt Sarah (Erica Truesdale); Saphronia (Krystal Gardner); Sweet Thing (Arlethia Friday); and Destiny Stone as Nina Simone herself, wracking her brain in the bombed-out sanctuary trying to create music to articulate her hurricane of emotions. It’s very nearly an all-woman show, with director Chanel Blanchett, musical director Judith Porter, stage manager Kathryn Harding, and Carrie Cranford as the props and costume designer. Executive producer Chip Decker and Evan Kinsley, technical director, balance out the team.