Tag Archives: theater

The Front Porch Divas!  Distinguished. Intelligent. Vivacious. Ageless.

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You will know one when you see one!

A Front Porch Diva is smart, confident and strong. These women are over forty and fabulous! They may be of a certain age but the calendar neither defines or constrains them.

Divas come in all shapes, sizes and shades and have a swag uniquely their own. They love God, their families and their pleasure of choice. A Diva has a caring nature, a giving spirit and an understanding heart but don’t let her soul skills fool you. she  recognizes bull when she hears it!
From Type A personalities to textbook introverts, they still rock. Blessed with a healthy dose of mother wit nothing gets past these ladies. When it comes to the business of others, the Divas have mastered how to hear and not hear, see and not see, speak and not speak…and they keep more secrets than the CIA-unless someone is at risk. Then all bets are off.

Some may be described as classy, some sassy and even sexy. She can also be all three…at the same time.

Think Angela Bassett, Michelle Obama, Lisa Price, Mara Brook Akil, Carla Harris

Get the picture? I’m sure that you know a few Front Porch Divas.

Maybe you are one?

Arizona cultural theater takes the stage

Image-from-Borderlands-Theater-500x333Milta Ortiz, moved to Tucson with her husband solely to write the documentary drama play titled Más, about the banning of Mexican-American studies in the Tucson Unified School District.

Ortiz, Borderland Theater’s marketing and outreach director, is passionately working with her husband, Marc Pinate, the theater’s producing director, to bring the theater centerstage to new audiences in Southern Arizona.

Borderlands Theater has undergone various changes since being founded 30 years ago by Barclay Goldsmith. But the emphasis of the theater has always been on the border voice and telling native stories, a mission that continues to thrive under Pinate’s direction.

The proximity between Mexico and Arizona has continually had a distinct influence on the culture and people of this state, and it is this culture that has distinctly begun to shape the performing arts in the southwest.

Niche regional theaters continue to establish giving voice to community members and often minority groups in cities around the country. As the Penumbra Theater gives voice to the African-American community in Minnesota, Borderlands Theater gives voice the Hispanic and Latino community in Arizona.

Más debuted as the first play for Borderlands Theater’s 2015 season. The play brought together people of all ages and cultures, which was unique for the theater whose typical patrons are liberal retired white individuals.

“We are now really interested in targeting that younger population, that hip audience and of course the Latino audience,” said Ortiz, “For very complicated reasons they are not going to the theater so our mission is to say the theater is for you, it is about you, you can partake in the theater experience.”

For more information on Borderlands Theater, visit borderlandstheater.org and to read the full story written by Morrena Villanueva visit  Arizona Cultural Theater Takes Stage .

#arizonatheater #culturaltheater #Mas #borderlandstheater #morrenavillanueva #jeanettehill #jwhillproduction #theater #ourstoriesyourvoice #arizonasonoranews

Jeanette Hill

JW Hill Production


Austin Event!! “Don’t Call Me Brother!” Staged Reading




Another black youth has been killed by a police officer under questionable circumstances. Recently promoted Andrew Merritt’s first task as Chief of the Community Liaison Department is to restore his former community’s confidence in the police department.  At the same time he attempts to maintain the respect of his activist family and his fellow police officers. His loyalty is in question from both sides.

Is this new job a step up…or a set up?

Join us Sunday, September 27th at 2pm:

The Boyd Vance Theatre

1165 Angelina Street

Austin, TX 78702

Doors open at 1:30pm

Light refreshments will be served

This is a dramatized stage reading followed by a panel discussion from community members.

$15 Adults/$10 Youth (under 18)

Don’t Call Me Brother Tickets

This event is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division, City of Austin and Austin Creative Alliance

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April 21

Mixed Blood will welcome its 3rd world premiere of the season, a love story about Rwandan immigrants living in America, trying to recreate the traditional wedding ceremonies in a new place, while simultaneously struggling with the violent atrocities of their past. The production follows the structure of a traditional Rwandan wedding ceremony and features live drumming and dance.

Alyze and Martin are in love. Martin drives a taxi, and Alyze cleans office buildings at night to get by. When Martin proposes marriage, Alyze happily accepts, but in this new country, without family, without money, without traditions, they must forge a new path to make their marriage their own. Alyze has always dreamed of the traditional Rwandan ceremonies, but Martin feels that a Justice of the Peace is all they can afford. Alyze finds herself stuck between two worlds.

The cast features Ethiopian American actress and Mixed Blood regular Antu Yacob as Alyze, and introduces Kenyan American actor Owiso Odera to Mixed Blood audiences as Martin. This show also represents a reunion for three artists who last collaborated on 2009’s award-winning production of RUINED by Lynn Nottage: Kenyan American actor Irungu Mutu, Liberian American choreographer Edna Stevens, and director Aditi Kapil.

Artistic Director Jack Reuler: It is a primary tenet of Mixed Blood that people like to see themselves on stage reflected in important ways. In this 55454 Series (about Africans and Muslims in America), and in this season (“at the intersection of virtuosity and social change), YOUNG NEGRESS STEPPING OUT OF THE RIVER AT DAWN, brought to us by gifted actor Owiso Odera, embodies both aspirations. The finest performers in the land meet a great script that personifies the intentions of the Series and ambitions of the season. For a theatre dedicated to the development, production, and dissemination of new plays, producing Dean Poynor’s world premiere allows us to walk our talk in new and ever-improving ways.

Playwright Dean Poynor: In the play, Alyze and Martin end up making their own wedding: piece meal, handcrafted, one-time-only. They use the resources they have at hand, including their cultural traditions, their tragic memories, and their rich imaginations, to make something both utterly unique and deeply familiar. The theatre is the perfect way to explore this story. Theatre events are always unique – the show changes night to night with the truth of the moment. And the inverse economy of performance demands that you strip away everything that is non-essential so that the most vibrant thing – the actors on stage making characters come to life – can be seen most clearly. Making theatre is a collaborative effort between human beings. It has been a privilege to make this play with Mixed Blood, for you. I trust that we will introduce you to someone you have never met, but who you’ve known your whole life.

Actor Owiso Odera: This is an African love story and to be more specific, a Rwandan love story, between two well written black African characters. That combination does not come along very often in the American Theater. Love is universal and we can all identify with that but it is rare that I have gone to a theater in this country and experienced a beautiful love story between two African characters. The other aspect of Dean Poynor’s play that makes it compelling to me is a strong African female character at the center of the story. This play is the story of Alyze and how she navigates and negotiates being an African woman, an African/American woman, and an immigrant living in America, trying to balance what elements of her culture to hold on to while adopting and assimilating to the western world. Alyze is full of wit, passion and loves deeply. I do not see this African woman on stage very often and when I read this play, something in me could see my mother, sisters and aunts fully expressed on stage in ways I probably never saw them express their feelings in real life. A story from a part of the world I come from told with sensitivity, truth and humor. How could I pass that up?

The design team includes set designer Lois Rhomberg, lighting designer Paul Epton, costume designer Annie Cady, and drummer Ahanti Young providing the sound bed for the show.

The 55454 SERIES is a curated series of four plays about, for, and with Africans and Muslims in America. Each production runs one weekend only. The series also includes January’s PILGRIMS MUSA AND SHERI IN THE NEW WORLD by Yussef el Guindi, February’s AFRICAN AMERICA by Warren C. Bowles, and April’s HIJAB TUBE by Seema Sueko.







URSULA O. ROBINSON-From the Classroom to the Stage





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Ursula O. Robinson is the Drama Program Coordinator and a Tenured Associate Professor of Drama at South Carolina State University where she cultivates and molds young dreamers into accomplished artists. This award winning playwright is also the Artistic Director of Ursula O. Robinson Productions (UORP), a comprehensive artistic company that creates tailor-made works of art that heal, entertain, educate, and even set the mind free!

10710610_866228786743674_4089571357767906738_nUrsula O. Robinson is also chair of the Creative Spiritual Arts Department at Spiritual Foundation Ministries in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where she uses her God-given talents to uplift and edify. She is also a member of the  Board of Directors for the Urban Playwrights United, a nation-wide umbrella organization for urban playwrights and producer .  She is also an accomplished Toastmaster’s International award winning speech maker holding the title of District 58 Humorous Speech Winner for two consecutive years.  Recently she was awarded the Best Author Award for the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival.


This accomplished artist, is known for her one-woman shows, her hilarious comedy acts , and her prowess as a writer of personalized monologues. Ursula Robinson holds a BA in English, a BA in Theater Arts, and an M.F.A. in Acting. Blessed with the gifts of playwriting, performance, and practically anything artistic, Ms Robinson believes that the arts have the ability to change people’s lives for the better.


Let’s hear from Ursula:

You seem to have the best of both worlds. You not only get to write and perform but you get to teach others how to do it. Living and loving what you do!1.     Do you find it challenging combining the Creative Ursula with Professor Robinson? How do you manage to keep your roles a teacher, writer/performer separate?Sometimes they can be the same hat just a different location… Often my works are written to showcase the talents of my students and to offer them the opportunity to witness the transformation from page to stage. When I operate as an artist I am also teaching and preparing them for a future in the arts. Sometimes thee roles are very desperate because I work in a system that requires you to evaluate and give feedback in the form of a grade… Or if I have to generate reports or evaluate my own performance based upon a set of standards created by non- artists.. Then I am very aware of myself as a teacher.  For the most part I consider myself an artist/educator who uses art to birth other artist who change the world.1403068_10152854184372630_587693756250613622_o2.     Alternately wearing the hats of actor, writer and producer which hat do you find most comfortable?The least stressful in terms of the process to create a product is of course teacher because the audience is smaller and there is room for change and discovery while presenting ideas to students.. In performance there is more artistic stress in creating a three-dimensional character who conveys the playwrights intention effectively and in the moment that it is happening onstage. There is no room for mistakes or breathers once you hit the stage!

3.     With both the funding for and devaluing of the Arts significantly decreasing in recent years, how have you maintained the creative energy of ‘touching the future’ artistically and academically for your students?

The fuel for any artist is the art itself… I have created in abundance and in squalor but the conditions did not taint the art because the art was born out of the pureness of who I am as an artist. There is a saying that my professor use to use.. We create great theatre, at a loss if we must. At a profit if we can.. But always great theatre. I am not sure of the original author of this saying but it is true… The lean times have often created the best work because it caused me to dig deeper into my well of creativity.

4.     Explain to our readers why you feel it is so important that African Americans continue to use our voices and style to tell our stories?

We must tell our stories so we will not forget who we once were…We have made come a long way but we have not arrived… And like Hansel and Gretel who could not go back home and almost became supper for someone.. African Americans will be consumed by our past if we do not remember from whence we have come…It is our history that makes us strong because it built our muscles. Forgetting how you were developed opens the door for that past to attack your clean memory and put you right back in that same predicament.

5.     What can we look for next from the Creative Ursula?

Anything and everything! I am embarking on more adventurous works and in working with a wider audience. And of course.. a few laughs! I just want to continue to do what God has created me to be.. A voice!



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CARLA NICKERSON – Creative Artist Extraordinaire Update


Carla Nickerson

Carla Nickerson inhales oxygen and exhales energy!!! Always on the go, I’m glad she took a moment to share with us!


2015 has been a very busy year for Carla…


Carla Nickerson Mockingbird 1

   Carla with St. Edward’s University drama students in To Kill a MockingBird Nov. 2015


Carla Nickerson Griot Design

(Griot Style) Designed this dress and hat for the cover of Occhio Appela Magazine, October 2015 issue


Carla in Satchel Paige & Kansas City Swing at Austin Playhouse (Feb/Mar) Carla Nickerson


Carla Nickerson Griot Melba MooreCarla’s (Griot Style) design for Melba Moore’s Listening Debut Party


You move seamlessly from acting to singing to painting to fashion. Are your skills in these various areas natural or nurtured talent?

I think “seamlessly” is very generous. I don’t really give either art form the focus I’d like to. Visual art is the discipline that comes most easily followed by acting, fashion design and singing, in that order. I have to work hardest at singing.


Looking at the difficult task of developing a sustainable career in the Arts, how have you managed to maintain your artistic level of excellence?

Austin is touted as some creative Mecca, but few Artists here earn a living wage by solely creating their own art. The hype is so persistent that I routinely have people say to me: “Hey, I’vm thinking about doing what you do (painting, acting, designing). I need contact info for people who hire you and when can I come check out how you do it?”

I get to create to my own level of standards by having a “day” job and working autonomously other than theatre/film. I love Austin, but no longer attempt to cultivate a market for my work in this town beyond (for the time being) performance.


 CARLA NICKERSON AS A COPYou have a very interesting background, can you tell  our readers what your previous career was? How  did you transition from that to what you do now?  How has it helped?

That question is usually comes when people hear about my career as a police officer. I was a sworn peace officer in Austin for seven years patrolling the streets and helping people in various ways including taking them to jail. The real ‘transition’ was going from Artist to cop–it took everyone by surprise and I can’t easily explain why I was so drawn to that line of work. Likewise, having been an actress and portrait artist made me a better cop. There were countless times when my well-honed observation skills saved the day and maybe my life a few times. I never drew my gun, never had a fight–other than ducking a fist once–in all those years. It also helped me tremendously working undercover sting assignments.


You are an equity actor. Can you explain to our readers what being an equity actor means? Its benefits and its challenges?

It means that you work for (at least a semblance of) a living wage and that you pay into a pension fund and earn social security and health insurance; it protects you from having to work overtime without pay; It also means especially in Texas that the roles are few and far between. I don’t recommend it in Austin until you’re WELL seasoned and not needing to accumulate more experience. I worked free and for very little for decades before joining equity. I’m comfortable with being labeled difficult to afford.

CARLA NICKERSON AND ME AT ABTF 2013 copyYou have won multiple awards for your talent. In deciding what roles to accept what do you consider the most important detail?

There’s not just one. Who’s producing it? What’s the storyline? Will it fit into my current time constraints? Is it something new, capable of stretching me into unexplored territory?

You currently hold the position of Program Coordinator at the City Of Austin’s Office of Arts & Cultural Resources. How do you manage to so many different projects/businesses and maintain a ˜day job?’

I’ll answer that if I ever figure it out. It can be difficult, but what a rewarding burden to bear!


What would you consider your dream role?

One that required me to travel to Cuba or Ghana/Anywhere in Africa or Asia. Short of that, my dream role is always the next one.

 What is next for Carla Nickerson in 2015?

I’m excited about playing the lead role in The Story of Six Tusks, a feature film being shot this summer. Besides that, have a book illustration project that will continue at least another three months, and I’m in talks about a small role in a film being shot this fall. I’ll also be working in behind-the-scenes roles with Spectrum Theatre Company, which I co-founded.


Mountaintop Marc Pouhe and Carla Nickerson