Bliss Hall event celebrates African American women

Shayla Simmons
Shayla Simmons

“Ain’t I a Woman!” a chamber music theatrical performance celebrating four African American women, will be presented by the Core Ensemble 8 p.m. Friday, March 16, in Bliss Hall’s Ford Theater on the campus of Youngstown State University.

“This is a compelling and important musical theatre work that features a brilliant fusion of music, theatre and history,” said Phyllis Paul, dean of the YSU College of Creative Arts and Communication.

Paul also noted that the performance is appropriate given that March is Women’s History Month.

The event is free and open to the public. Tickets must be secured in advance by Monday, March 12, by calling the University Theatre Box Office at 330-941-3105 or online at

The performance celebrates the life and times of renowned novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, ex-slave and fiery abolitionist Sojourner Truth, exuberant folk artist Clementine Hunter, and fervent civil rights worker Fannie Lou Hamer. The musical score is drawn from the spirituals and blues of the Deep South, the urban vitality of the Jazz Age, and contemporary concert music by African Americans.

Actress Shayla Simmons portrays multiple characters in the performance. Simmons has appeared in theatre (The Color Purple, Dreamgirls, Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Wiz), and in the national tour of Winnie the Pooh. She was a featured artist with the Golden Gospel Singers in a European tour to Germany, Spain and Switzerland and was the recipient of the NAACP Best Actress Regional Award and the Women of Power Certificate of Achievement in Acting, Singing, Writing, Producing and Directing.

Since 1993, the Core Ensemble has toured in every region of the United States and internationally to Australia, England, Russia, Ukraine, and the British Virgin Islands. The Core Ensemble has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, The Palm Beach County Cultural Council and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music

Parking is available in the Wick Avenue deck for a nominal fee. For more information, call 330-941-2307.