Ep. 33: Yolanda Rabun, Howard L. Craft, and Kathryn Hunter-Williams Talk Nina Simone and ‘No Fear Blues Long Gone’

Ep. 33: Yolanda Rabun, Howard L. Craft, and Kathryn Hunter-Williams Talk Nina Simone and ‘No Fear Blues Long Gone’

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Recording artist and actor Yolanda Rabun considers Nina Simone, a mentor of sorts. Last summer she had the opportunity to sing at the icon’s childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina as the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated it a National Treasure. Before that, she played the role of Nina Simone in a short play Howard L. Craft was commissioned to write by the Sonja Haynes Stone Center at UNC-Chapel Hill to accompany an art exhibition. Now Yolanda is reprising her role as Nina Simone in Howard’s one-woman play NO FEAR AND BLUES LONG GONE opening at PlayMakers later this week. This production is being directed by Kathryn Hunter-Williams. Hear what Kathryn, Yolanda, and Howard all have to say about the show, the music, and the legacy of the High Priestess of Soul.

About the Guests

Yolanda Rabun as Nina Simone.

Yolanda Rabun is a wife, mother, award-winning corporate lawyer and professional AEA actor, motivational speaker, accomplished music entrepreneur, and acclaimed recording-performing artist. She exploded onto the jazz scene first on Stanley Baird’s 2007 Traffic Jam hit single, “I Want 2 Love You,” and, in 2011, released her debut CD project, “So Real,” on which she co-wrote several songs, including the title song. In 2012, Rabun infused Soul, R&B, Gospel, Folk, Smooth and Traditional Jazz on her sophomore solo album, “Christmastime,” and followed in 2013 with the Adult Contemporary single, “Hold on To Your Dreams.” This rich-voice chanteuse has opened for and sung with such iconic artists as Jennifer Holiday, Howard Hewitt, Ron Isley and the Isley Brothers, R&B singer KEM and the world-renowned iconic drummer, Sheila E. Yolanda has also performed with the NC Opera, the Durham Symphony, and the Raleigh Symphony Free Spirits; she appeared on a number of TV and radio programs.  A proud equity-actor, Yolanda has performed on a number of regional theatre stages, including PlayMakers Repertory Company (VIOLET), Theatre Raleigh (BEEHIVE: THE MUSICAL), and North Carolina Theatre (NEWSIES). She is also a motivational speaker. Yolanda and her husband of 25 years reside in Wake Forest, NC with their two college-aged children.

Howard L. Craft, Playwright

Howard L. Craft is a father, husband, playwright, poet, essayist and arts educator. He is the author of two books of poems: Across The Blue Chasm (Big Drum Press 2000) and Raising the Sky (Jacar Press 2016). His poetry also appears in Home is Where: An Anthology of African-American Poets from the Carolinas, edited by Kwame Dawes. His essays have appeared in The Paris Review and have been included in The Routledge Companion to African American Theatre (Routledge Press 2019). He is the author of several plays including, FREIGHT: THE FIVE INCARNATIONS OF ABLE GREEN, a New York Times Critic Pick for March 2015; CALYPSO AND THE MIDNIGHT MARAUDERS, ORANGE LIGHT, and THE JADE CITY CHRONICLES VOLUME I: THE SUPER SPECTACULAR BADASS HERALD M. F. JONES. He is the creator of the first African-American superhero radio serial: The Jade City Pharaoh. Craft is a recipient of the North Carolina Playwriting Fellowship, and a two winner of the NCCU New Play Project. As an arts educator Craft works as a creative writing instructor for Mike Wiley Productions and is the current Piller Professor of the Practice at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for the Writing for the Stage and Screen program. Craft lives in Durham with wife, young son, and Beagle, Shazam.

Kathryn Hunter-Williams, Director

Kathryn Hunter-Williams has been a PlayMakers Company Member for 20 years. Recent and highlights include LIFE OF GALILEO, SKELETON CREW, LEAVING EDEN, TARTUFFE, COUNT (as Director), DOT, INTIMATE APPAREL, THE CRUCIBLE, TROUBLE IN MIND, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE, METAMORPHOSES, THE TEMPEST, LOVE ALONE, A RAISIN IN THE SUN, IMAGINARY INVALID, HENRY IV & V, THE PARCHMAN HOUR, ANGELS IN AMERICA, FENCES, DOUBT, YELLOWMAN, STRING OF PEARLS, and many more. Her New York/Regional credits include working with Living Stage, The Negro Ensemble Company, Manhattan Class Company, New Dramatists, and Archipelago Theater. Kathryn is on the faculty of the Department of Dramatic Art, UNC-Chapel Hill, Company Artistic Associate for PlayMakers Rep and is Associate Director of HiddenVoices, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing life-changing stories into a public forum.

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Music Credit

‘Feeling Good’ from the musical ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT — THE SMELL OF THE CROWD is composed by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly (music and lyrics) and performed by Yolanda Rabun.

To hear my interview with Mike Wiley (mentioned by Howard L. Craft in this episode), click here.

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