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Plowshares presents the political power of black women's music in 'The Divas Project'

Posted: Feb. 10, 2013 at 3:35 p.m.

DETROIT This February, Plowshares Theatre Company debuts a new musical revue that puts the music of African-American female greats in a new light - as the catalyst and impetus for social change and the advancement of women.

"The Divas Project" is the first show of Plowshares' 2013 season, themed "Celebrating the Black Woman." Presented Feb. 15-March 10 at The Boll Family YMCA Theatre in Downtown Detroit, the production will feature the music of 10 popular artists from the past 50 years, including Nina Simone, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, and Erica Badu. "Their music mirrors the things that were going on in society at the time," says Scott Norman, Plowshares' managing director. "These 'Divas' were not just singers and musicians; they were social activists. There's more to the music than initially meets the ear."

The show is an original work created by Gary Anderson, Plowshares' artistic director, who also arranged the popular jazz musical revue, "A Jazzy Christmas," which was featured in Plowshares' 2011 season. "The revue will showcase the changing relationship between women and society," says Anderson. "These artists used their talents to voice the attitudes and viewpoints of the women of their day. Nina Simone was a classically trained pianist. She was an activist. Women's Liberation was in the songs she writes."

Franklin was the voice of the black urban woman, Anderson continued. "When she demands 'R-E-S-P-E-C-T,' she is wailing a battle cry that hadn't been heard before in music. Chaka Khan erased racial boundaries singing 'I'm Every Woman'. And Erica Badu says, 'I'm not taking this anymore! Get your friend, take your junk, and go!' You wouldn't have heard that in 1954. That's the modern woman's voice saying 'I don't need a man!'"

The music and story will be presented by popular Detroit divas Audrey Northington, Chelly K, and Ashaki, all of whom have created strong reputations in the region for presenting wonderful jazz, blues, and soul music.

"The Divas Project" runs Feb. 15 through March 10. Showtimes are Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. (6 p.m. on Saturday Feb. 16), and Sundays at 2 p.m. - with a special Sunday evening performance on Feb. 17 at 7 p.m.

Tickets range from $20-$38, with special discounts extended to senior citizens, groups of 10 or more, and patrons under 30 years old. Tickets can be purchased online at, on facebook at, or by calling 313-744-3181.

The Boll Family YMCA Theatre is located at 1401 Broadway Street, Detroit, in the cultural hub of Downtown Detroit, which has recently been reformatted to create a more comfortable theater experience for the audience. Convenient and affordable parking is available directly across the street at the Detroit Opera House parking structure.

About Plowshares Theatre Company
Plowshares Theatre Company, co-founded in 1989 by artistic director Gary Anderson, is Michigan's longest-lasting and now only professional African-American theater company. 2013 marks it's 23rd season.

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