5 things you didn’t know about Nina Simone (& even if you did they’re still pretty incredible)

Josette Bushell-Mingo in Nina at the Young Vic. Photo by Simon Annand.jpg

Josette Bushell-Bingo in Nina at the Young Vic. Photo by Simon Annand.

1. What’s in a name? Nina Simone was born in 1933 as the slightly-less-catchy Eunice Waymon. She decided to change it after taking a job as a pianist at a bar in Atlantic City and being told she was going to have to sing too. Terrified her Methodist preacher mother would find out she was singing the “devil’s music”, she laid low under this new name which would soon become iconic. “Nina” was a term of endearment used by an ex-boyfriend whilst “Simone” came from the French actress Simone Signoret.

2. “This Bach, I liked him!” Young Nina began playing the piano as a 3 year old in church, crossing the railroad tracks to the white part of town to study classical piano for free lessons which she adored. Her aim was to be the first black classical pianist in America. It was on this journey that she encountered racism as a young girl, paving the way for her later career in activism: first when her parents were moved to the back of the church during her first piano recital to make way for a white family (Nina refused to play unless they were brought back to the front); then again when she was rejected from the Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music based on her race (she carried on trying, and did get into the Julliard School of Music).

3. Come and knock on my door… Malcolm X and Nina Simone lived next door to one another in Mount Vernon, New York during the late 1960s. The pair were united in their approach to the Civil Rights Movement, believing that a militant stance would be more effective at taking on the establishment than the peaceful protest offered up by Martin Luther King Jr. This was in great contrast to Nina’s early life where she had been taught that racism was the “great unspoken” in her childhood home.

4. “A love affair with fire” – Lisa Simone on her mother. Nina’s second husband Andrew Stroud gave up his day job to become her manager and producer full-time not long after they met and fell in love. They were introduced  in March 1961 while she was playing at a midtown supper club and he was a formidable New York City police officer. Their marriage turned tempestuous, with Stroud becoming abusive before she eventually left him.

5. The messages in Nina’s songs are as relevant today as ever. Nina’s passionate, revolutionary protest anthems such as Mississippi Goddam – a direct response to the murder of Medgar Evers and the Alabama church bombings which killed four children in 1963 – were a call to action and a truly inspiring point of change in the black power movement. In recent years, in the US, the UK and the world over, there have been political stirrings reminiscent of those seen in the 60s and 70s. Nina and her songs are perhaps even more necessary now than ever before.

Nina: A Story about me and Nina Simone runs until 29 July in the Maria studio at the Young Vic. Tickets are sold out but we’ll be operating a returns queue at the box office in advance of each performance.

🎧🎶Listen to our Nina Simone playlist on Spotify to get you in the mood… 🎧🎶

YV Directors Program goes to York

Last month the Young Vic and York Theatre Royal held a workshop for directors and theatre makers who live and work in Yorkshire and the North East, through the Young Vic Directors Program Reach Out scheme. 

Eight young directors who have been making socially responsive theatre met with York Theatre Royal Associate Artist John R. Wilkinson, Sue Emmas, Associate Artistic Director of the Young Vic, and Imogen Brodie, Director of Taking Part at the Young Vic. The session delved into the work of the Young Vic’s Taking Part department and how the theatre engages with schools, colleges, young people and local residents of Lambeth and Southwark. In particular it looked at the past production of Men in Blue, a community response to Blue/Orange which worked with men who had suffered more than one episode of psychosis.

The day started with some classic exercises to get to know the names of everyone in the room, including ball games used in the original Men in Blue workshopsThe morning session largely focused on the work the Taking Part does within it’s communities and what it achieves with it’s community productions. Imogen talked about the process behind developing several Taking Part projects such as Men in Blue and See Me Now.

Also discussed were the ethics of participatory theatre, what we hope to achieve through it, and who it ultimately helps. The directors then completed some of the exercises used within the development of the Men in Blue project. These included writing exercises starting with the sentences ‘A man is’, ‘Today is’ and ‘I am scared of’. The results of the exercises done during the Men in Blue process actually made it in to the script. The group shared both their responses and the responses of the Men in Blue, and interesting example of how much content you can create through a simple exercise.

The afternoon session focused particularly on Men in Blue and the processes, road bumps and troubleshooting that arose within that particular project. Afterwards the directors paired up and came up with their own ideas for participatory theatre that could have been made in response to Blue/Orange. These ideas, or individual ideas that the directors were currently working on, were pitched to Sue and Imogen. They gave advice on the holes and highs within the concepts before the pitches were discussed and dissected by the whole group. This was an invaluable exercise for the participants in developing an idea into a tangible option.

Imogen Brodie’s top tips to working in Participatory Theatre:

• Make friends with partner organisations
• Make a project as flexible as possible to work with the needs of the participants
• Individualise schedules for participants
• Feed people
• Contact people on mobiles
• Be prepared to do a lot of pastoral work
• Be prepared to give a lot of yourself
• Be open to whatever people bring, no matter how odd or off beam it seems
• Get a brilliant creative team who are interested in other people
• Only do this work if you really like people
• Go to them
• Have the same standards and creative ambitions for the work as you would for professional work
• Have a sense of humour
• Remember this is not their job
• Be mindful of language and people’s frame of reference
• Be super organised
• Know what you want people to get out of it and make sure that happens
• Don’t be a dick

Reach Out is a Young Vic Directors Program initiative that runs a range of activities for directors across England who live and work outside London. Some take place at the Young Vic and others are run in association with theatres we are either touring work to or have ongoing relationships with.

Keen to attend a future Reach Out event or interested in joining our Genesis Directors Network? Read all about the Directors Program and the opportunities it offer.

About the Genesis Foundation

The Genesis Foundation has supported the Young Vic for nearly 15 years, including the Young Vic’s director’s program since its inception. The Genesis Foundation is pleased to fund the Genesis Fellow and Genesis Fellow Production Fund, the Genesis Future Directors Awards and the Genesis Directors Network at the Young Vic.

Established by John Studzinski in 2001, the Genesis Foundation works in partnership with the leaders of prestigious UK arts organisations such as LAMDA, the National Theatre, Royal Court, The Sixteen and the Young Vic.  Its largest funding commitment is to programmes that support directors, playwrights, actors and musicians in the early stages of their professional lives.

The theme of art and faith increasingly characterises aspects of the Foundation’s work with choral commissions including James MacMillan’s Stabat mater.

Genesis_logo_blk

 

 

 

 

Two weeks exploring technical theatre with YV Taking Part’s Backstage Pass

This month we’ve been delighted to have 9 young Londoners at the Young Vic learning the skills and secrets of stagecraft, as part of Taking Part’s Backstage Pass programme. Find out what they got up to below. 

Backstage Pass is a free course at the Young Vic where for two weeks we invite young Londoners to take part in exploring all aspects of technical theatre. The group spends time with the YV’s immense production team having workshops in Stage Management, Lighting, Stage, Sound, Costume and Construction. These workshops culminate in a performance of an extract of a play, professionally directed and acted, which the participants have plotted, built, designed and called.  To get a full production experience, they also stay for the ‘get-out’ immediately afterwards.

As well as their time at the Young Vic, the group went on tours and trips to other London theatres – having tours and/or seeing shows in the West End, Southwark Playhouse, National Theatre, Gate, Almeida and the Roundhouse. Our thanks to the staff at these theatres for being so generous with their time!

Daniel Harrison, who coordinated the project, said “It was really great to see the group work together, as the intricacies of their chosen area of technical theatre were interwoven to create the final piece. Lighting chatted with sound over the various cues, stage management with costume over the props used. Technical theatre does not work in silo, and the group soon learnt this, as well as discovering interests and skills that they had previously not known about. Ahmed said being Stage Manager made him ‘feel like an authority figure’ and Abdul on sound told me that he’d picked up tips to use on his own grime tracks!”

Leo Wringer and Nadia Albina in Backstage Pass’ excerpt of by Alistair McDowall, directed by Finn den Hertog. Photo by Beanie Ridler 

The Backstage Pass programme gives young Londoners an understanding of and foot-in to the professional theatre scene, not just at the Young Vic, but at venues across the capital. Not only is the course free (as are all the theatre tickets), but a travel and lunch bursary are provided to ensure that those on the course have no barrier in participating.

Backstage Pass has now finished, but will be back next year. Londoners aged 18-24 are eligible to apply. For more information please email danielharrison@youngvic.org.

★★★★ “Wonder-inducing, inspiring, pulls out all the stops” | Reviews for Life of Galileo

The reviews are coming in thick and fast for Life of Galileo. This stunning production by BAFTA award-winning film director Joe Wright sees Brendan Cowell star as Galileo with original music by The Chemical Brothers’ Tom Rowlands and out-of-this-world projections by 59 Productions.

Check out the reviews below and read what our audiences have been saying so far on Storify.

log-blog

★★★★
“Wonder-inducing, inspiring, pulls out all the stops”
The Telegraph | Read the full review

★★★★
“Joe Wright’s take on Brecht is inventive and absorbing”
The Evening Standard | Read the full review

★★★★
“Brendan Cowell is magnificent in the title role”
The Independent | Read the full review

★★★★
“This is a trip, and a good one at that.”
Time Out | Read the full review

★★★★
“Joe Wright’s visually stunning production”
What’sOnStage | Read the full review

Life of Galileo runs in the Young Vic Main House until 1 July 2017, make sure to snap up your tickets now.

Want more? Catch a behind the scene look at the cast in rehearsals, and production photography of the company on Lizzie Clachan’s phenomenal set.

Life of Galileo at the Young Vic. Photo by Leon Puplett Projections by 59 Productions (2)

Life of Galileo at the Young Vic. Photo by Leon Puplett, projections by 59 Productions.

Colm Meaney joins the cast of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

We are thrilled to announce that Colm Meaney will play Big Daddy in the Young Vic production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof directed by Benedict Andrews, alongside Sienna Miller and Jack O’Connell. 

Colm_Meaney_02_MDF_4063 copy2

Colm Meaney by Andrew H. Walker

Colm Meaney was last on stage in London alongside Kevin Spacey in Moon for the Misbegotten at the Old Vic, with the production subsequently transferring to Broadway. His other theatre credits include Breaking the Code, The Cider House Rules, Juno and the Paycock, and more. Earlier this year, Meaney won the Irish Film and Television Award for Best Actor in a Lead Role in Film for his portrayal of Martin McGuinness in The Journey, opposite Timothy Spall. Additional film credits include all three adaptations of Roddy Doyle’s The Barrytown Trilogy (The Commitments, The Snapper and The Van)Die Hard 2Dick TracyThe Last of the MohicansFar and AwayCon AirLayer CakeThe Damned United and Halal Daddy, to be released this summer.  He has also appeared in Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa with Steve Coogan, as well as the comedy-drama One Chance, the story of Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts. Meaney voiced the role of the ‘Miles Standish’ in Free Birds and ‘Grandpa’ in Norm of the North. He is best known on television for his long-running role as ‘Chief Miles O’Brien’ in the hit series Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Meaney also starred in AMC’s western series Hell on Wheels and will next be seen in TNT’s new period drama Will in the role of James Burbage.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof  will play at the Apollo Theatre, 31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7ES, 13 July – 7 October 2017. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

coatr17_q1_006_landscape_870x615

11 Questions with the cast of Life of Galileo – Jason Barnett

jason-barnett

Jason Barnett in rehearsal for Life of Galileo. Photography by Johan Persson.

As we edge closer to the opening performance of Life of Galileo we took 5 minutes out with Jason Barnett who is playing the role of Federzoni. Jason returns to the Young Vic after appearing in Mad About a Boy in 2012.

1. Can you describe your character in Life of Galileo in three words?

The. Most. Important.

2. How did you find the rehearsal process in comparison to other productions you’ve been in?

It’s been hard. There’s an awful lot to excavate, but it has been fascinating every day.

3. What can the audience expect from this production that’s different to anything else they are likely to have seen before?

The space, the design, the integration of the music. I think it’ll be AMAZING.

4. Have you ever invented anything before?

Yes. Caribbean sushi!

5. What are you usually doing 10 minutes before the show begins?

Catching up on Masterchef on iPlayer.

6. What is your favourite play (seen, read or worked on)?

Doctor Faustus . . . or maybe Henry IV Pt 1 . . . or maybe Measure for Measure . . . or maybe Big White Fog . . . or maybe, or maybe . . .

7. If you could travel anywhere in the universe, where would you go and why?

Tooting High St ‘cos South London rocks!

8. What was it that first got you interested in the theatre?

The kids from Fame.

9. Who is your ultimate hero?

Martin Luther King.

10. If you could have any one supernatural power which would you choose and why?

The ability to lose weight at will.

11. If you could have been born in any era, which would it be and why?

I like the idea of being around for the Dizzy Gillespie / Miles Davis jazz era.

Life of Galileo runs 6 May – 1 July at the Young Vic directed by BAFTA Award-winning director Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice).  Brendan Cowell plays Galileo following his acclaimed performance in Yerma.  Book tickets now.

6 of our favourite songs from The Chemical Brothers 🎧

On Wednesday we announced that The Chemical Brothers’ Tom Rowlands will be making his theatre debut at the Young Vic to compose original music for Life of Galileo.

We’ve heard some sneak peeks of the music and you’re in for a serious treat with this one.

We wanted to celebrate this announcement by sharing our all-time favourite music from The Chemical Brothers. Now crank up the volume and we’ll see you at the Young Vic from 6 May! 👌

1. Galvanize

2. Hey Boy Hey Girl

3. Block Rockin’ Beats

4. Wide Open ft Beck

5. Go

6. Salmon Dance


Life of Galileo runs 6 May – 1 July at the Young Vic directed by BAFTA Award-winning director Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice).  Brendan Cowell plays Galileo following his acclaimed performance in Yerma

Book tickets to Life of Galileo