All posts by jwhill120

I Want My Vagina Back! Review


 I Want My Vagina Back!
Jeanette W. Hill

Pamela Love (Book Author)
Portrayed by: JaQuitta Williams, Crystal Fox, Towanda Braxton, Nevaina Rhodes, Tanya Freeman, Dana Peebles and DeEtta West.
Directed by: Mia Kristin Smith

The 2014 Atlanta Black Theatre Festival may go down in history as the year of social commentary undertones. Several of the performances, while totally entertaining, presented an undercurrent of personal and social issues that resounded with many in the audience. As if the title, synopsis and the ‘No Men Allowed’ marketing for the stage presentation of I Want My Vagina Back!wasn’t enough to pique the interest of the curious, the line of four hundred plus women extending to the front door waiting to be admitted to the main stage theater had anyone passing by stopping to look and ask.

   I Want My Vagina Back! tells the stories of every woman that we all know and maybe that we have been at one time or another. Women who waited or who weren’t allowed that choice to wait, women who wanted or wanted to be wanted, women who cheated (yes, we cheat too), women who faked it (you know what I mean), women who didn’t have to, women who were fooled and women who willingly played the fool.

   Towanda Braxton breaks the ice by saying those things we are told it’s not polite to discuss. Things such as size, ability, roughness, timidity, etc. Her “no holds barred” opening set the tone for the rest of the discussions that would follow. JaQuitta Williams then portrayed the tried and true woman. The woman who ‘waited’ – a noticeable while – for the right man and didn’t understand why others didn’t because her life, sexually and in all other ways, reflected the virtues of waiting.

  The incomparable DeEtta West brought the seasoned senior spin on the whole sex thing putting a little preaching in there while extolling how as mothers, sisters and friends, it is incumbent for us to have open, candid discussions with our daughters, sisters, and any young woman we can reach, on valuing their total and sexual selves. Actress Crystal Fox’s portrayal of a married woman who liked good sex – really liked it – at first, caused a few blushes and more than a few moans from the women in the audience. But as she went on to tell what happened when ‘liking’ it went beyond the boundaries of her marriage vows, it caused those same women in the audience to shed a few silent tears as she told of the never-ending price she had to pay for “great sex.”

  Another young woman discussed how she developed her appetite for married men. She had decided after listening time and again to her mother, aunts and friends speak with disdain about their husbands’ dalliances with other women, spending their time and money on these women, that she would not join the ranks of the unhappy spouse, but instead just enjoy the benefits of being the other woman – for years.

With each successive monologue the audience of women envisions a Friday night ‘Girls Night Out’ with the girls sitting around the living room sipping on beverages of choice, disclaiming the calories that accompany the drinks and munchies. There are transparent discussions about a woman’s secret place and how we lie on it, for it and about it and also how we let it be used, viewed, ignored and sometimes abused. Each monologue uncovers how our choices on what we do with our vaginas, how we do it and whom we do it with can and often do alter women physically, emotionally, socially, psychologically and even financially.

I Want My Vagina Back! is a phenomenal stage piece. Adapted from the book of the same name by Dr. Pamela Love, this play is really a social and feminist movement. I predict that Dr. Pamela Love’s book and subsequent dramatic presentations and conversations will soon be seen nationwide.

Jeanette W. Hill
Playwright and founder of JWHill Productions

BLACK BROADWAY: African American On The Great White Way

Leslie Uggams, Sheldon Epps and More to Celebrate Stewart Lane’s ‘BLACK BROADWAY’ at Barnes & Noble Tomorrow

February 24
6:10 PM2015
Leslie Uggams, Sheldon Epps and More to Celebrate Stewart Lane's 'BLACK BROADWAY' at Barnes & Noble Tomorrow

On Wednesday, February 25 at 7PM, Barnes & Noble, 150 East 86th Street hosts author and six-time Tony Award-winning producer Stewart Lane (La Cage aux Folles, A Gentleman’s Guide…, War Horse), Tony Award winning actress Leslie Uggams (Hallelujah Baby!, On Golden Pond, Thoroughly Modern Millie, King Hedly II), acclaimed Broadway director Sheldon Epps (Baby It’s You!, Play On!, Blues in the Night), and author Tom Santopietro (The Godfather Effect…, Considering Doris Day, Sinatra in Hollywood) in a discussion about the inspiring account of the tumultuous path that black actors have traveled to reach recognition on the Great White Way. This special Black History Month event celebrates the release of Lane’s new book Black Broadway: African Americans on The Great White Way.

On February 2, 2015, Square One Publishers released Black Broadway: African Americans on The Great White Way by six-time Tony Award winning producer and author Stewart F. Lane (La Cage aux Folles, A Gentleman’s Guide…, War Horse). Uniquely illustrated with over 300 dynamic photographs (many of which have never been published to date), Black Broadway chronicles the journey of black theatre in America, alongside a running timeline of African-American history. Celebrating the performers, playwrights, songwriters, directors, choreographers and designers who changed theatre throughout America and the world, Lane offers a detailed account from Minstrel Shows to Vaudeville, from the Jazz Age to the Golden Age of the American Musical, through the dramas inspired by the Civil Rights Movement to the present day Broadway.

The book features a foreword from Tony-award winning Broadway director Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun, Fences, Stick Fly), who calls Black Broadway “a unique tribute to the many African-American actors, directors, playwrights, and others who have contributed to the fabric of American theater.” Described by Booklist as a “wonderfully illustrated and researched book,” Black Broadway provides an insider’s look at Broadway by focusing the spotlight on landmark shows including A Raisin in the Sun, Porgy and Bess, Dreamgirls, Fences, The Wiz, Purlie Victorious, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Bring in ‘Da Noise Bring in ‘Da Funk,and The Scottsboro Boys; great theatre writers including August Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry, Eubie Blake and Ossie Davis; legendary performers such as Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, Pearl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Bert Williams, Sammy Davis Jr., andCab Calloway; to Tony-winning stars who continue to light up the boards including Audra McDonald, Denzel Washington, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Savion Glover, Ben Vereen, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Leslie Uggams,Tonya Pinkins, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Holliday, and more.

“For decades, African Americans have struggled to become a part of Broadway, and while the fight continues, many battles have been won and significant changes have been made,” says Stewart Lane. “It is my hope that this book serves as a guide to many people who have blazed a trail to the Great White Way and made it more accessible to everyone – black and white – who seeks to entertain and enlighten through the performing arts.”

Stewart F. Lane is the six-time Tony Award-winning producer of La Cage Aux Folles, The Will RogersFollies,Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Two and Only, War Horse, and A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder. He has also produced in London, where his shows have won an Olivier. He has served on the Board of Directors of the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center and the Transitional Committee, where he appointed both the Commissioner for Cultural Affairs and the Commissioner of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting. Currently, he serves on the Board of Governors for the Actors Fund of America. A highly sought-after speaker, Mr. Lane is also the author of the critically acclaimed books Let’s Put on a Show! and Jews on Broadway.

The Mountaintop : A Review



Mountaintop Marc Pouhe and Carla Nickerson

I will preface this by saying that I viewed the epic movie, SELMA! and the stirring play, The Mountaintop, within twenty-four hours of each other. While I was fairly young and living in the north when these events took place, I do have memories of dinner table conversations, front porch discussions, back porch arguments about the pros and cons of stirring up white folks and it being the perfect time to demand equality for our race and not so impartial news reports about both.

I remember the pride and reverence that everyone, well, everyone in my world, had in regard to Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember hearing his comforting voice, the hope in the call and response of the Negro people, as we were known then as he issued his peaceful giant’s call to action. A call to dignity…calls to equality…a call to justice…a call to destiny.

However, with all of the love, admiration and pride many of us had and have for Martin Luther King, Jr., we forget that he was human, a man subject to the same failings, faults and fears that all men and women experience.

It is here where The Mountaintop experience really begins, not with the often quoted “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech rendered hours before at the Mason Temple for the sanitation workers but here- at the Lorraine Hotel, 450 Mulberry Street, Memphis TN on a stormy Wednesday night, April 3, 1968.

The opening claps of thunder as King enters his hotel room, tired and disappointed; put the audience on notice that this is not going to be a usual night.

The Mountaintop pict Carla and Marc

While Marc Pouhe’s physical appearance doesn’t match that of Dr. King, his mannerisms make the connection. Searching for listening devices that have become part of the décor wherever he goes, pacing while waiting on trusted friend, Ralph Abernathy to bring him his Pall Mall cigarettes. He calls the service for a cup of coffee and is informed room service has stopped for the night but for him they will make an exception. Enters the spirited, sassy, at times irreverent maid, Camae (portrayed by Carla Nickerson) with a vocabulary totally unlike that of the Church of God in Christ audience he just left.

At first she appears to be in awe if not a little intimidated by Dr. King but that soon passes as a connection develops between them that dissolves status, titles or stature. Her funny nature blends with his sometimes open and sometimes guarded demeanor as the increasing bursts of thunder visibly affect him.

The Mountaintop Carla Nickerson and Marc Pouhe

We see a side of Martin Luther King, Jr. that the public was seldom if ever privy to. Yes, there are glimpses of his ‘appreciation of women’ but what we see that is more important is his vulnerability.

I am limited as to how much I can reveal without ‘spoiling’ it for others but I will say that their conversation covers the major areas of human opinions including politics, violence versus non-violence, (Camae has a unique take on how Dr. King could approach the race issue) to touching on his interaction with his wife and children.

The play has a few unexpected twists and for some may be a little over the top in certain areas but for all it is or isn’t, we get a little insight at what it’s like when a god isn’t on the pedestal.

While some say that Ms. Hall has blurred the lines between the temporal and the eternal, I think it was her destination all along. It’s a journey we all have to make, where what we believe is real meets what we know is truth.

Join Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Marc Pouhe’) and Camae (Carla Nickerson) at the Austin Playhouse weekends until January 25th in Katori Hall’s dramatic and to some controversial play, The Mountaintop, directed by Don Toner, Artistic Director, Austin Playhouse.

#mlk, #themountaintop, #Selma, #marcpouche, #carlanickerson, #dontoner, #austinplayhouse, #theatre, @jeanettewhill,  #blacktheatre, #blackpower, #camae, #ujimamagazine, #history



Jeanette Hill Productions
(JWHill Productions)
The Amen Circle

The Best Lesson




The Best Lesson by Jeanette Hill
Ursula Robinson

Directed by Chris Scott
Produced by JW Hill Productions
Atlanta Black Theatre Festival
Atlanta, GA October 11, 2014

“What do you do when you are too old to be young, but you are too young to be old?” This is the question at the crux of the play, The Best Lesson, written by Jeanette W. Hill and presented at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival in Atlanta on October 11, 2014.  What does an older mature woman (Donna) do when she loses her husband (Jake) to a young and vibrant woman (Brelyn) who not only broke up her marriage, but is now pregnant? Add to the mix that Jake has been friendly with Donna since the divorce and wants to cut off their sexual romps now that he is about to be a father again. It is this rip in her life that causes Donna to go into a midlife crisis that tears her family apart and ultimately places her child in the position to be raped.

In her frustration to find a way to deal wither new identity as a woman alone with a child, Donna begins to have physical relations with men all over town. At the same time, she tries to fulfill all of her roles as a mother, a youth pastor and as a friend, but that comes to a crashing halt when her secret life shows up at her front door. She makes that final decision to redefine herself, just when she loses everything. It is only after she picks herself up off the ground and testifies about the rape of her daughter that she begins to find the new Donna that is emerging.

Kimberly Ginyard-Mitchell’s believable and honest portrayal of Donna, as the typical newly single mother, made her a woman with whom the audience could connect.  Jake, played by Theo White, was lovable and his demeanor contradicted his actions, which caused the audience to be thoroughly shocked at his behavior. The vibrant energy on the stage definitely came from Charmayne, played by Nina J., who created a lovable and mature child that captured the audience’s attention. The one character that stood out and made the audience gasp, however, was Frank, played by Jae Ellis. Frank was a pedophile who only spent a brief moment on stage, but still had a  powerful impact. Ellis did a great job of creating a convincing character.

With The Best Lesson, Hill uses contradictions to illustrate her points and to bring the story into our hearts. For example, Donna admonishes her daughter to be a good girl, but is herself behaving in a bad way. Jake is a great father, but a lousy husband. Donna’s best friend is a woman who is very sexually active, while Donna is more modest—that is, until she becomes the old lady in the club looking for answers in the eyes of every man that she sees. The use of these contrasts helps us to see just how far this family has been driven into chaos.

In an audience made up of middle aged women and men, this story hit home for several reasons. First, it was an opportunity for men to see themselves through the eyes of the women that surround them. The man who wanders away from home and still wants to maintain peace can see that there is a high price to pay for it, when he has not fulfilled his end of the bargain. Second, women could identify with being in a place in life where you are forced to deal with another person’s choices and still try to live a fulfilling life. This story touched the heart of what  eats away at family unit; Identity. It is hard to define yourself when your life changes so drastically that you do not know who you are anymore.

Playwright Hill is great at speaking to the family and to the situations that can cause us to lose ourselves. She is a master at appealing to the heart of her audience and giving them a story that seems so simple, but has such complex consequences and underlying themes. The Best Lesson demonstrates that the axis upon which our lives swings is always dependent upon our choices. And the lesson is that your identity is always connected to who you believe yourself to be at any given moment of time.

Ursula Robinson
Ursula O. Robinson Productions
Drama Program Coordinator, South Carolina State University