It would be nearly impossible to sufficiently tell the story of Nina Simone in a single performance, and that’s not what Will and Justin Sears-Watson are trying to do with their new production, “Nina Simone, High Priestess of Soul.”
The production — which they describe as a celebration of Simone through dance and spoken word — will play Jan. 30-Feb. 2 at Phoenix Theatre Indianapolis, 705 N. Illinois St.
The Jan. 30 showing is at 7:30 p.m. The Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 productions are at 8 p.m. The Feb. 2 show is at 2:30 p.m. Tickets range from $20 to $32 online.
Justin, the artistic director, said it was a challenge to put a show together that he felt was worthy of who Simone was because of her large body of work, her activity in the civil rights movement and her struggles with mental illness (she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the late 1980s).
As a pianist, singer and performer, Simone earned her badge as “the high priestess of soul.”
“I think we’ve brought something to the stage that’s very emotional, very meaningful, and people will feel different when they leave,” Justin said. “… I hope we’ve done her some honor.”
Part of the goal of the show is to open up audience members to the idea that Simone was a true genius, someone who may have been more celebrated as a Black woman if she came along a few decades later.
She’s still a “long, long, long way from getting her due as an artist,” said Will, the executive director, but he’s hoping this show can be part of the posthumous effort to immortalize Simone, who died in 2003 at 70 years old.
“The show just makes you feel good,” Will said. “There’s some history to it. There’s a lot of neat little features. … It’s definitely going to impact the audience in a positive way.”
If all goes well, Will joked there should be an uptick in Apple Music downloads of Simone’s work from Indianapolis.
Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.
“NINA SIMONE, HIGH PRIESTESS OF SOUL”
A new production honors Nina Simone through dance and spoken word.
• When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30; 8 p.m. Jan. 31 and Feb. 1; 2:30 p.m. Feb. 2
• Where: Phoenix Theatre Indianapolis, 705 N. Illinois St.
• Tickets: $20-$32 online