Category Archives: Jeanette’s Place

Meet the Strong Family in ‘No Ordinary Days’!

No Ordinary Days is a sometimes funny, sometimes intense story about the impact of mental illness  on an urban family.

Being raised in the church, the Strong children grew up with a deep faith ethic. A family crisis unites them in prayer but when their prayers go unanswered their faith is wanes. After that, nothing is ordinary!

No Ordinary Days

Meet the members of the Strong Family in         No Ordinary Days:

                                      TAWANNA JACKSON

Simone Madison is a true Boss Babe! Her assertive, ‘I get what I go after’,  personality doesn’t put her high on the girlfriends list. If you don’t serve a purpose in her life, she will not be present in yours. As a result, believing that God has turned his back on her…she is turns her back on God.

 

                                      ANITRA WHITFIELD

There is something about being the middle child! Janey Baptiste, Simone’s peacekeeping sister, is bearing the weight of the family right now. In addition to caring for their mother, she is being mother and father to her teen age son, Josh. And in case that isn’t enough,  she constantly monitors her weed smoking brother who has issues of his own. That doesn’t give her much time for herself…and she needs it.

 

                                       ADARRYLL PERRY

Their weed smoking, philosopher brother,  David Strong, has his own ideas on how to handle life.  Personal and military problems have cause him to doubt his self worth-without his ‘stash’.  As a result, making no plans to succeed,  he fails…frequently . Two tours in the Middle East changed him ways he can’t explain. Not trusting the VA  hospital to provide the proper care for him, he uses what he calls a holistic approach to his mental health-weed and alcohol.  Which may explain his different view if life.

 

                                       SABRINA SIMPSON

The family matriarch, Miriam Strong has not only dedicated her life the church but made sure that her children were under the Christian arch.  However, her devotion Christ and the church couldn’t stop her mental collapse. Accepting it as God’s will, she returns home  from the hospital with her faith in God unshaken.  Her attempts to restore her children to church are not going well.  She awaits the  answer to her prayers for total  restoration of her children to the church and to her.

 

                                        YASHUA JOHNSON

Josh Baptiste, Janey’s ‘can’t wait to be a man’ teenage son is trying to figure where to stand and what to stand for as he transitions from manchild to man as his mother struggles to be both mother and father.

 

                                     ROBERT WALKER JR.

Sterling Madison is Simone’s ex-husband , who is very bit as strong willed as she is. In addition, he is the custodial parent of their seventeen year old daughter, Raina . While he still cares for her,  Simone’s attitude and unpredictable behavior, particularly since her promotion has caused a rift in their relationship to the point of them constantly clashing when it comes to setting boundaries and priorities for their daughter.

 

 

Tamica Monroe as Zenobia                                       TAMICA MONROE

Zenobia Hairston, Simone’s long time artistic and eclectic friend who doesn’t pull any punches and notices the change in Simone since her mother’s return and tries to intercede.

 

                                      LANDO SHEPARD 

Pastor Quentin Gilmore, is not just the pastor to the Strongs but a close personal friend.  He struggles to minister to Miriam after her return home because it triggers a tragedy  from his past, causing him to feel as though he let her down.

KARMA STEWART                                          KARMA STEWART

(Understudy ) as Zenobia Hairston, the eclectic and straight shooting friend.

Online tickets at:

http://noordinarydays.eventbrite.com

We would like to acknowledge the support of the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division of the Office of Economic Development, Austin Creative Alliance and the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the production of No Ordinary Days.


NO ORDINARY DAYS AUDITIONS

JWHill Productions LLC is holding auditions for a cast of talented, energetic actors for a September production.

‘No Ordinary Days’ is a play about mental illness and its impact not only in our African American communities but in our African American churches.

NO ORDINARY DAYS

Simone Madison, strong-willed, career-driven woman who loved God is facing a faith crisis. Her devoted Christian mother is institutionalized following a mental breakdown.

Believing that mental illness is something that happens to the weak, she is devastated that her mother would succumb to this ‘weakness’ and she is angry that God would allow it to happen. Feeling she can no longer trust a God who cannot protect his own, she leaves the church. She is determined to prove that she alone controls her fate.

Her mother, Miriam finds that her return home causes tension in the family. Welcomed by other family and church members, it is obvious that Simone is keeping a noticeable distance. This leaves, Janey, Simone’s sister to take on the family caregiver role which includes raising her teenage son, and keeping an eye on David, her cannabis tripping brother.

Finding that everyone is so understanding of Miriam, causes more discord. Simone begins to make more and more questionable life choices. Attempting to prove to everyone that she is stronger than her mother, every day becomes a struggle. She begins to lose those around her ….and herself.

AUDITIONS! AUDITIONS! AUDITIONS!

PERFORMANCES:  September 15th through                                                                  September 23rd (weekends)

VENUE:

  • Boyd Vance Theatre
  • 1165 Angelina St.
  • Austin, TX 78702
  • Non-Equity
  • Austin commuting area only!
  • Paid roles

REHEARSALS BEGIN:            July 23rd *rehearsal calendar at audition.

CASTING: African Americans unless otherwise noted.

Character Descriptions

SIMONE MADISON – Early 40s, divorced, strong-willed, successful career woman

JANET BAPTISTE– 30s, Simone’s younger sister,  the family peacekeeper with strong religious values

MIRIAM STRONG-60s, Mother, devote church worker recently released from hospital after mental breakdown

DAVID  STRONG JR. – 30s, Simone’s brother. A military veteran, he suffers from PTSD prefers to self-medicate using alcohol and ‘herbs’.

JOSHUA BAPTISTE– Teen, son of Janet, looking for a strong male role model. (African American or mixed race)

ZENOBIA HAIRSTON – 40s. artistic friend of Simone’s family, who notices the change in Simone

PASTOR GILMORE- 50s, pastor of the family church.

ELLIS MADISON – 40s, Simone’s ex-husband.  Friends after their amicable divorce with him getting custody of their daughter, Ashton.

NOLAN LOPEZ – 40s, streetwise man from the neighborhood.  (All races)

NATALIE  BAKER–    Church member who maintains a close friendship with Miriam. (All races)

Please send a current head shot,  resume and contact information, as well as the role you are auditioning for . You may submit a  1-3 minute video and or 1-2 minute recording (singing )  if not able to appear in person. Submissions should be received by July 17th!

Subject: NO ORDINARY DAYS AUDITION

Email: Jeanette@jwhillprod.com

This project is supported in part by the City of Austin Economic Development Office and the Austin Creative Alliance.

No Ordinary Days Auditions/Cast Call

JWHill Productions LLC is holding AUDITIONS!

 

JWHill Productions LLC is holding auditions for a cast of talented, energetic actors for a September production.

‘No Ordinary Days’ is a play about mental illness and its impact not only in our African American communities but in our African American churches.

NO ORDINARY DAYS

Simone Madison, strong-willed, career-driven woman who loved God is facing a faith crisis. Her devoted Christian mother is institutionalized following a mental breakdown.

Believing that mental illness is something that happens to the weak, she is devastated that her mother would succumb to this ‘weakness’ and she is angry that God would allow it to happen. Feeling she can no longer trust a God who cannot protect his own, she leaves the church. She is determined to prove that she alone controls her fate.

Her mother, Miriam finds that her return home causes tension in the family. Welcomed by other family and church members, it is obvious that Simone is keeping a noticeable distance. This leaves, Janey, Simone’s sister to take on the family caregiver role which includes raising her teenage son, and keeping an eye on David, her cannabis tripping brother.

Finding that everyone is so understanding of Miriam,  causes more discord. Simone begins to make more and more questionable life choices. Attempting to prove to everyone that she is stronger than her mother, every day becomes a struggle. She begins to lose those around her ….and herself.

AUDITIONS! AUDITIONS! AUDITIONS!

PERFORMANCES:  September 15th through                                                                  September 23rd (weekends)

VENUE:

  • Boyd Vance Theatre
  • 1165 Angelina St.
  • Austin, TX 78702
  • Non-Equity
  • Austin commuting area only!
  • Paid roles

REHEARSALS BEGIN:            July 23rd *rehearsal calendar at audition.

CASTING: African Americans unless otherwise noted.

Character Descriptions

SIMONE MADISON – Early 40s, divorced, strong-willed, successful career woman

JANET BAPTISTE– 30s, Simone’s younger sister,  the family peacekeeper with strong religious values

MIRIAM STRONG-60s, Mother, devote church worker recently released from hospital after mental breakdown

DAVID  STRONG JR. – 30s, Simone’s brother. A military veteran, he suffers from PTSD prefers to self-medicate using alcohol and ‘herbs’.

JOSHUA BAPTISTE– Teen, son of Janet, looking for a strong male role model. (African American or mixed race)

ZENOBIA HAIRSTON – 40s. artistic friend of Simone’s family, who notices the change in Simone

PASTOR GILMORE- 50s, pastor of the family church.

ELLIS MADISON – 40s, Simone’s ex-husband.  Friends after their amicable divorce with him getting custody of their daughter, Ashton.

NOLAN LOPEZ – 40s, streetwise man from the neighborhood.  (All races)

NATALIE  BAKER–    Church member who maintains a close friendship with Miriam. (All races)

Please send a current head shot,  resume and contact information, as well as the role you are auditioning for . You may submit a  1-3 minute video and or 1-2 minute recording (singing )  if not able to appear in person. Submissions should be received by July 17th!

Subject: NO ORDINARY DAYS AUDITION

Email: Jeanette@jwhillprod.com

Our Summer Sip & Slay!

The Front Porch Divas is hosting its first Summer Sip & Slay event on July 13th at the Water@Wine!

The Front Porch Divas are women of a certain age who refuse to be limited by a date on a calendar or any limitations that society sees fit to assigns to them,

They are determined, in, vibrant and ageless.

You loved the Divas in Past Perfect and now they are coming to share a little more of their lives and the lives of their friends.

 

Join The Front Porch Divas

At their Summer Sip and Slay! It will be an evening of fun, food, drama and music at the intimate Water2Wine venue.

$20 gets you in for this evening of a little theater, food, beverages!

Tickets at:  https://summersipandslay.eventbrite.com

For those wine connoisseurs, Water2Wine is offering for an additional $20 a wine tasting form over 100  types of wine. (A great evening for $40!)

Mingling, Music & Munchies and we also showcase a few staged readings from JWHill Productions!

You’ll see scenes from:

The Best Lesson-

How far would you go to prove to yourself…and your ex…that you still ‘had it’?

 

Picking Up the Pieces

 

Life’s trials bring an entirely new definition of family!

 

 

 

 

And as an unexpected surprise- a few scenes from the debut of the newest play,

‘The Wednesday Woman’.

Could you be a man’s part-time woman? Not his side-chick, just part-time…

For some women, that’s just fine!

 

And a sneak preview of the play we are doing at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival:

CLEAN SHEETS!

When generational blessings collide with generational curses. Who’ left standing?

 

So dress in your Divalicious Style,  come out and enjoy a night of friends, food and fun with The Front Porch Divas!

Cost:

  • $20 for the staged reading, appetizers and music
  • $40 includes the wine tasting

The Front Porch Divas’ Summer Sip & Slay

Get those tickets early! Seating is VERY limited!

Location:

Water2Wine   3300 W. Anderson Lane

Suite 304  Austin, TX 78757

Sign up for our email list at:

Join our mailing list!

Contact us at jeanette@jwhillprod.com with any questions!

My Artist Statement or Why I do what I do.

My Artist Statement… or Why I do what I do.

As an artist, people are often interested in your inspiration and your process.

I have to admit that I did try to find a home of traditional playwrights where I was told I didn’t fit.  Then  trying to  migrate to the urban playwright community, there was a closer fit but not perfect. , again with no luck. And while there is sometimes singing in my plays, there are by no means musicals. I could visit but not reside there.

For a time, I was labeled (often by myself) an inspirational playwright. But my writing at times didn’t fit that definition either.

Then, several years ago,  I had the pleasure of meeting two icons in black theatre. Woodie King, Jr. the godfather of black theater and Dr. Carlton Molette.

(I am writing this in a calm manner but I have to be honest, when I found out I would be meeting Woodie King, Jr. , I gave out a silent scream.)

After he viewed some of my work and loved it. (Heart palpitations) Then read another play that I had written and was impressed. (On a cloud) He told me that I needed to stop trying to fit in with ‘labels’. That I had a unique voice and that I should be true to it.

Dr. Molette a year later said almost the same thing. Make my own road.

While I am flattered (and glad that people are patronizing black artists), when told I remind some of David E. Talbert, and not so often, Tyler Perry, I remember that each playwright has not only their distinct style but their unique voice. And that is how I write, from a place that is uniquely me.

This brings up several questions from people who want me to fit into their vision or where my work should be. Having been asked both directly and in round about ways the following questions:

  1. Do you have to write ‘so black’?
  2. Why do you write about the things that happen in the Black community and church the way you do? Approaching issues that head on can make people uncomfortable?
  3. Don’t you think that you’d be more successful if you wrote more mainstream?

My answers to the questions–in the order listed:

  1. Yes.
  2. Because it is imperative that we as a people tell our stories with our voices in ways that we relate to them. Art at its core is activism. It reflects what we live, what we see, what we accept. And to part B or the question, it is not my job to make people comfortable.
  3. I don’t know the answer to that. If it means would I make more money, probably. If it means would I be more popular or have a larger fan base, that’s possible. However, I am writing about to not only entertain but to enlighten those who know a little and education those who may know nothing about the vibrancy of people of the African Diaspora. Either way,  I do know that my spirit would not rest easy if I chose to take the popular way.

As my artist statement reflects…

Jeanette W. Hill

Artist Statement

As long as only the hunter records history,

the lion’s story will never be told.

                              African proverb

 

african beauty is pretty women on the african map

 Well, I am that lion. Telling our stories with our voice. Telling stories of African Americans and the African Diaspora,  who individually and collectively, with faith, love, and perseverance through generations continue to leave a mark in history and carve a place in the future in spite of inconceivable opposition.

My determination can be traced my upbringing. Mornings of watching neighbors step off of their front porch to fight the day’s battle and again in the evenings after dinner sipping sweet tea on their front porches, if weather permitted. I eavesdropped as they discussed grown folks’ business.

Community gatherings–births, home-goings and other celebrations as neighbors showed support with food, love, money, knowing nods, hugs and pats on the back… and yes, even the occasional gossip.  Spirited-filled church services where religion inextricably bled into the community, which moved into action in whatever form was needed.

These places were not just structures…houses on a street, that is a neighborhood. It was a community, a village whose bond extended beyond physical locations and scientific DNA. We were…we are family.

So my passion and purpose are braided together to illuminate the strength, determination and resilience that we as a people pass from soul to soul, spirit to spirit and heart to heart- generation to generation.

Africa map on ethnic background with traditional elements

 

Past Perfect!

PAST PERFECT! The Front Porch Divas are hitting the floor running in Past Perfect .

Is the past ever really in the past? First Lady Claire Gilmore is about to find out that the short and long answer to the question is ‘No’.

Elated at being the youngest recipient of the Governor’s Lifetime Community Service Award, she and the FPDs (Front Porch Divas) are celebrating her accomplishment,

She has dedicated more than twenty years selflessly serving the at risk young women in her community. Not even the FPDs know that her dedication is rooted in a twenty year old secret…until now.

Her troubles seem to being when the new college professor, Sean-Michael Abbott moves to town. You see, Sean-Michael is the only other person who knows the secret she has tried to hard to redeem herself from.

What starts as gifts, cards and nice messages turn in to threats and danger. The FPDs rally around her but with no clear indication of where to look, it seems hopeless.

At the point Claire must confess her past indiscretion to Quentin, her husband, it looks like she;s lost everything.

But has she?

Join us for six performances of Past Perfect at the Boyd Vance Theatre in the George Washington Carver Museum April 14-22, 2018!

Tickets available online at

www.pastperfect.eventbrite.com

We are returnig to the state of the art Boyd Vance Theare at 1165 Angelina Street in Austin, TX 78702.

PERFORMANCE DATES AND TIMES:

April 14th at 1pm and 7pm

April 15th at 4pm

April 21st at 1pm and 7pm

April 22nd at 4pm

Doors open 30 minutes before the performance.

 

We look forward to seeing  you there! For more information, you can contact us at jeanette@jwhillprod.com

 This project is funded in part by City of Austin Economic Development Division.and Austin Creative Alliance

Why ‘Don’t Call Me Brother!’?

Don’t Call Me Brother! –Andrew Merritt’s recent promotion to Assistant Police Chief of the Community Liaison Office, carries the responsibility of restoring trust between the police department and his old neighborhood a priority. The fragile balance between his life, career and family is broken when an unarmed African American youth is killed by a white police officer under questionable circumstances. All eyes are on him. The community is asking is he Black enough? The police department is asking is he Blue enough?

He is asking himself if this promotion was a step up or…a set up?

Don’t Call Me Brother is a story that moves seamlessly from the front page of any major newspaper into the homes of those with the dual citizenship of being African American and in law enforcement.

I wrote this play as a result of watching news coverage of the social unrest in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD as I watched the faces of African American police officers who were dispatched to quell the unrest. How must they be feeling? There is no doubt they joined the police force to protect and serve their community but there was absolutely no doubt that they fully understood why their brothers and sisters in communities of color were angry. Many of them were probably angry too.

I will preface this piece by saying that they is without question improvement needed on both sides of the badge. Law enforcement and communities of color have much work to do. Unfortunately, these changes will have to happen concurrently with improving the

So I contacted  a number of African Americans who were in law enforcement and asked their feelings about the recurring situation in this country, in fact, in their cities about unarmed African Americans being killed by police officers…without any consequences or accountability.

Their feelings, though not  publicly stated were  similar to those expressed by the African American communities across the country.  It goes beyond cultural literacy.  There are officers wearing the ‘blue’ who shouldn’t be allowed to.

 

(Don’t Call Me Brother! WOW Production in Columbia SC)

They also know that key to improving relations between communities of color and law enforcement is that this problem must be corrected. According to several of the law enforcement officers, one of the biggest problems is that it is almost impossible to remove the unsuitable officers on the force from the inside. Community involvement is needed, meaning residents must step forward when there is a problem concerning an officer’s behavior.

Unfortunately, the people who have the most to gain from lodging complaints, also have the most to lose. They are residents of the communities with the problem sand are acutely aware of the cliché that ‘snitches get stitches’. The fear of reprisal from the police is very real to the people in these same neighborhoods.

I watched and listened to the interviews with the families and friends of the dead men. I watched and listened to the politically correct and crafted response to the shootings from the various police departments made by someone who didn’t look like the victim. I started thinking about those with dual citizenship. Being African American and being in law enforcement.

*My next blog addresses some of the push back I got for the play…*

TONI SIMMONS HENSON-Our Stories, Our Voices! Revisited!

 

TONI SIMMONS HENSON head shot

LISTEN TO WHAT TONI HAS TO SAY:

Theatre Producer, Toni Simmons Henson grew up in Hillside, NJ in the backyard of Broadway. Her passion for theatre stems back as early as when she was 8 years old when she and her sister, Wanda Simmons, the writer and age 9, produced plays in their backyard and basement for neighborhood kids.
In 2004, Henson became the Executive Director of Drama Kids of Princeton. Drama Kids is the US franchise of the Helen O’Grady Acting Academy.

ABTF TONI Jared Brodie

The Australian based academy is the largest children’s acting academy in the world. In just a few short years, under her tenure, the Academy enrolled over 750 students and produced over 80 plays and presentations. The program grew to five locations and two summer camps. The explosive popularity of the program attracted national publicity including articles in Entrepreneur Magazine and the cover of the Princeton Packet Weekend Magazine. Henson received two awards for distinguished achievement.

In 2007, Henson moved to Atlanta and founded Micah 6-8 Media, LLC. Under that company, she produced two hit plays entitled Once Upon a Dream by Khristi  Adams and Big Girls Gotta Eat, Too! by Melissa  Blackmon and Wanda Simmons.  Big Girls Gotta Eat, Too! toured four cities and was a part of the 2012 DC Black Theatre Festival.

 ABTF TONI SojournerABTF TONI Melba 10

In 2012, Henson founded the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival where over 200 artists perform 40 plays in four days. This annual event attracts thousands of theatre lovers from 24 states and three countries.  In 2014, Micah 6-8 Media, LLC was nominated and awarded first runner-up as Emerging Business of the Year by the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce for the Festival’s “significant contribution to economic development and community impact.”

The festival hosts an annual event gala that has honored theatre legends such as Taurean Blacque, Melba Moore, Pearl Cleage, Alia Jones-Harvey and American Theater Hall of Famer, Woodie King, Jr.

IMG_4617

Henson holds a B.B.A. from Howard University and an M.P.A from New York University. She has been married for 25 years to Antonio Henson, V.P. of PNC Bank and together they have four children.

ABTF TONI nat king cole singing 1

 

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