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Plowshares presents political power of Black female music in ‘The Divas Project’

DETROIT — This February, Plowshares Theatre Company debuts a new musical revue that puts the music of African American female greats in a new light: as the catalyst and impetus for social change and the advancement of women.

“The Divas Project” is the first show of Plowshares’ 2013 season themed “Celebrating the Black Woman.” It will feature the music of 10 select popular artists from the past 50 years, including Nina Simone, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Erica Badu. “Their music mirrors the things that were going on in society at the time,” says Scott Norman, Plowshares Theatre’s managing director. “These ‘Divas’ were not just singers and musicians, they were social activists. There’s more to the music than initially meets the ear.”

The show is an original piece created by Gary Anderson, Plowshares Theatre’s artistic director, who also arranged the popular Jazz musical revue, “A Jazzy Christmas,” featured in Plowshares’ 2011 season. “The revue will showcase the changing relationship between women and society,” says Anderson. “These artists used their talents to voice the attitudes and viewpoints of the women of their day. Nina Simone was a classically trained pianist. She was an activist. Women’s Liberation was in the songs she writes.”

“Aretha was the voice of the Black urban woman. When she demands R-E-S-P-E-C-T, she is wailing a battle cry that hadn’t been heard before in music. Chaka Khan erased racial boundaries singing ‘I’m Every Woman.’ And Erica Badu says, ‘I’m not taking this anymore! Get your friend, take your junk, and go!’ You wouldn’t have heard that in 1954. That’s the modern woman’s voice saying ‘I don’t need a man!’”

The music and story will be presented by popular Detroit divas, Audrey Northington, Chelly K. and Ashaki, all of whom have created reputations in the region through jazz, blues and soul music.

“The Divas Project” runs Feb. 15 through March 10 at the Boll Family YMCA Theatre, 1401 Broadway St., Detroit. Show times are Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. (6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16), and Sundays at 2 p.m. (with a special Sunday evening performance on Feb. 17).

For a detailed performance schedule, visit www.plowshares.org. Tickets range from $20-38 and can be purchased at www.plowshares.org or by calling 313.744.3181.

 

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