A Sneak Preview Into the World of “Simply Simone”

UNC graduate takes on “Simply Simone,” a play that addresses racism and history, at Greeley’s Little Theatre of the Rockies

Allison Vasquez is nervous for the upcoming play she’s directing.

She thinks many of the themes of the play, “Simply Simone,” are still relevant, especially in Greeley.

Vasquez graduated from UNC in 2009. As a Latino woman, she remembers racial tensions that permeated the community.

Now Vasquez, who teaches theater at San Antonio College, will return to UNC to direct the play for the university’s Little Theatre of the Rockies, a summer theater series. The series kicked off last week, and it will present five plays that run in rotation, on occasion, for most of the summer.

“Her story is what our story is today.”You don’t have to be a woman or a person of color to understand it. “ Allison Vasquez

“Simply Simone” opens 7:30 p.m. June 22 at Norton Theater, 1828 10th Ave.

Simply Simone tells the story of Nina Simone, an African-American singer, songwriter and civil rights activist who was around in the era of Martin Luther King Jr. She was known for advocating for violent revolution. She’d hoped African Americans could form a separate state.

Vasquez hopes when people come see the show, they remember where the country’s been and what it can be, she said in an interview.

“Her story is what our story is today,” Vasquez said. “You don’t have to be a woman or a person of color to understand it. I hope people see we need each other. We do need each other.”

When David Grapes, the director of the School of Theater Arts and Dance at UNC, asked her to think about directing a play called Simply Simone, Vasquez knew she had that opportunity.

Theresa Kellar, Kourtney Bellard, Brianna Faulk and Jalen Taylor, all of UNC, will take up the role. Each will play Simone at a different part of her life and showcase her lifelong struggle.

In some ways, Simone’s story is universal, Vasquez said.

“We understand love, the want to be loved and what it’s like to wrestle with society,” Vasquez said.

Simone does eventually find peace, Vasquez said. When she found out she had breast cancer, she stepped back to evaluate her life.

“She finds peace in not having to save the world but learning how to live in it fully,” Vasquez said. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve accomplished in life. You have to come to terms with who you’ve become.”

— Kelly Ragan writes features and covers health for The Greeley Tribune. Have a tip? Want to share your story? Call (970) 392-4424, email kragan@greeleytribune.com or connect on Twitter @kelly_raygun.