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. On this episode, Phyllis Morrison and Kenneth Hinton introduce us to the woman behind the music. Morrison is playing Waters in the upcoming Agape Theatre Project production of ‘Sweet Mama Stringbean, the Life and Times of Ethel Waters’ which Hinton is directing. For more information on the production visit www.agapetheatreproject.com.
About the Guests
Kenneth Hinton is an educator, actor, stage and video director, and playwright. He direct plays at Shaw University, NCCU and community theatre. Mr. Hinton was educated in Wake County Public schools at Lucille Hunter and Ligon High School. He briefly attended North Carolina A&T State University before being inducted into the U.S. Army where he served his country from 1972 to 1974. After completing his tour of duty, he continued his education in Southern California. He received his Associate of Arts degree at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, CA in 1977 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Radio/TV/Film from California State University, Long Beach in 1990. Mr. Hinton earned his Masters of Art in Dramatic Art in 1995 from the University of California, Santa Barbara with an emphasis on producing and directing television adaptations of theatrical stage productions. 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. And now, Phyllis is playing the incomparable Ethel Waters in the one-woman show, “Sweet Mama Stringbean: The Life and Times of Ethel Waters” written by Valjean Limar Jansen. Phyllis’ ability to act and sing was recognized by the Gallery Players’ Theater Company with the Best Leading Actress Pearl Award (2017). 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.” She has sung in a myriad of performing musical groups over the past thirty years and has served as a church musician most of her life. 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). A native of Midway, GA, she now lives in Durham, NC.
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‘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.