Ep. 36: Sweet Mama Stringbean, The Life and Times of Ethel Waters with Phyllis Morrison and Kenneth Hinton

Ethel Waters was a pioneer who broke down barriers on Broadway, in films, and on television. She was the first to sing the song “Stormy Weather” at the famed Cotton Club in 1933. In fact, her recording of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame nearly 70 years after she recorded it and in 2004, The Library of Congress added it to the National Recording Registry. But behind Waters’ soft smile, was pain and sadness. Phyllis Morrison and Kenneth Hinton introduce us to the woman behind the music. Morrison is playing Waters in the Agape Theatre Project production of ‘Sweet Mama Stringbean, the Life and Times of Ethel Waters’ which Hinton is directing. 

About the Guests

Kenneth Hinton is an educator, actor, stage and video director, and playwright. He directs plays at Shaw University, NCCU and community theatre. Mr. Hinton has won three national CASE awards for his documentary television work in 1988, 1989, and 1991 from Ford Motor Company. Mr. Hinton is an expert directing multi-camera video productions. Directing credits include: “You Ain’t My Daddy” by Ken Hinton, Chris Glover, “Homegirls” by Karen K.D. Evans,” and “Steal Away” by Romano King, “The Amen Corner” by James Baldwin, “Anatomy of a Woman Abused” by Jaison McMillian, “Ceremonies in Dark in Old Men” by Lonne Elder, and “Trouble in Mind” by Alice Childress. Acting Credits: Mr. Roberts, “The Watsons go to Birmingham,” Alphonso in the staged reading of Samm Art-Williams’ play, “Last of the Line,” Ozelle Graham in the play “Wise Ones,” Rev. Luke Roberts in the play “A Heart Divided,” Gerald in the Robin Armstrong play “Smoldering Embers,” and Randolph in the Sam Art-Williams play “Dance on Widow’s Row” at the Raleigh Little Theatre. Mr. Hinton is on the Board of Directors of the Durham Regional Theatre. He is currently the owner of The Media Group video productions and Artistic Director of Agape Theatre Project.

Phyllis (Pia) Morrison is a relative newcomer to the theater. Although her list of acting credits isn’t extensive, she is making her mark on the stage. You may have seen her in “Sister Act” (as Deloris Van Cartier – Gallery Players – Burlington, NC), “Curve of Departure” (as Linda – Bulldog Theater Company – Durham, NC), or “You Ain’t My Daddy” (as Judge Jocelyn Beckett – Agape’ Theater Project) to name just a few. Phyllis’ passion is singing. She wrote and co-wrote several tunes that were performed in the Ovens Auditorium (Charlotte, NC), The Carolina Theatre (Durham, NC) and North Carolina Central University for the stage play, “Butterfly Wings.” This singer/songwriter/actor is most excited to now be the front person for her own R&B/Soul performing band, PM Groove. Phyllis studied and graduated from Georgia Southern University (Bachelor of Science degree in Education); North Carolina Central University (M.A. Educational Media); and East Carolina University (M.A. Ed Instructional Technology).

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Music Credits

‘Saint Louis Blues’ – Words and music by William C. Handy and Rosamond Johnson, Handy Bros. Music Co. Inc., ASCAP, used with permission. Sung by Phyllis Morrison.

‘Supper Time’ – Words and music by Irving Berlin, Irving Berlin Music Corp., ASCAP, used with permission. Sung by Phyllis Morrison.

‘Taking a Chance on Love’ – Words and music by Vernon Duke, Ted Fedder, and John Latouche, EMI Miller Catalog, Inc. and Taking a Chance on Love Music Company, ASCAP used with permission. Performed live by Ethel Waters, Armed Forces Radio Service, Jubilee!, July 17, 1945.

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