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FILE – Director Phyllida Lloyd, left, and playwright Katori Hall bow during the curtain call at “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical” opening night in New York City on November 7, 2019. Most playwrights dipping their toes into musical theater for the first time, go small. Not Katori Hall: Her first mission was to capture the life of Tina Turner. (Photo by Evan Agostini / Invision / AP, file)

Evan Agostini / Invision / AP

Most playwrights who dip their toes into musical theater for the first time get little. Not Katori Hall: Her first mission was to capture the life of a musical giant – Tina Turner.

“I’m not really scared of much, that’s probably why I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to try this. I’m going to take Tina Turner, one of the greatest icons in the world, and try to tell her story in that musical form, “Hall said with a laugh.” I had no qualms. “

This fearlessness led to Tony de Hall’s first appointments, as producer and author of books for “Tina – The Tina Turner Musical”. During the awards ceremony, he will face “Jagged Little Pill” and “Moulin Rouge! Musical comedy ! for the best new musical crown on Broadway.

“Obviously there was a lot to learn. But I think for me as a writer I’m so instinctively driven and I’m drawn to a really good story, ”says Hall. “And Tina Turner’s life is just one of the most iconic examples in the history of the underdog and the hero’s journey – or, as I say, the Shero’s journey – you can think of. “

Hall, who is also the creator and showrunner of Starz’s critical breakout “P-Valley,” is on his own Shero Journey. She insists on hiring only women to direct episodes and has a deal with Lionsgate Television that includes a fund to commission black playwrights.

“You really have to be the change you want to see in the world,” she says. “Someone else gave me a chance. So I have to give others a chance.

While Hall had no musical theater experience until “Tina”, she had written several plays and one about an icon – her play “The Mountaintop” is a fictional drama that takes place the night before Martin’s assassination. Luther King Jr.

It won the Olivier Award for Best New Play, making Hall the first black woman to win this honor. When he arrived on Broadway in 2011, he drew stars Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett.

“Because I did ‘Mountaintop’, that’s probably why I felt like I could do ‘Tina’. I made King. I can do Tina, ”she said. “It was very helpful to have this already under my belt. “

“Tina” won 12 nominations, including Best Actress for Adrienne Warren in the title role and Best Book in a Musical, which Hall shares with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins. In the meantime, Hall’s “The Hot Wing King”, a play around a hot wing cooking competition, has won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for the theater.

There was a bit of fate at work when Hall, a Memphis native, was asked to help on the musical. “I grew up in Tennessee. Tina grew up in Tennessee. I know this place. I know the culture, ”she says.

“I know the difficulty of being a black woman in the entertainment industry, especially if you are a black woman who does not apologize – how you have to bend the rules to the point of breaking because that is how you can stay intact. I know that personally. ”

Hall’s deep well of empathy bathes both his icons and his marginalized characters. “P-Valley,” which she adapted from her 2015 play, is about the people in and around a strip club in the Mississippi Delta, a community she considered “untapped and invisible.” It took six years to research, interview and connect with over 40 strippers.

Hall digs into the often ugly humanity of his characters. Just as her Turner is portrayed in a hellish marriage marked by domestic violence and serial theft, her king is portrayed as a flirtatious flirtatious, smokes Pall Malls, sips alcohol, and recognizes his stinky feet.

“I love human beings. I like people. I like the bright parts of human beings. I also like their darkness, ”she says. “I always embark on this kind of humanization project with whatever I choose to do. I can’t even think of writing any other way.

Producer Brian Moreland, whose Broadway credits include “Sea Wall / A Life,” “The Lifespan of a Fact” and “The Sound Inside,” considers himself a fan, saying Hall pushes the boundaries of community and comprehension.

“She writes about human people who are your brothers and cousins, your sisters, your uncles, your aunts, your grandparents, she writes people and she writes them in the most raw and accessible way,” says- he. “She literally crawls inside these people and reveals their innermost truths.”

Hall graduated from Columbia University in 2003 with a major in African American Studies and Creative Writing, and learned her craft at the American Repertory Theater Institute and The Juilliard School. She turned to writing plays after feeling stuck as an actress.

Now she is dedicated to making black people see in a complex and nuanced way. She insists that their humanity – even their mess and missteps – is kept intact.

“As a black woman who has dedicated herself to telling stories about the black experience, I know I come from a culture that is often dehumanized no matter who and what you are or what your profession is – singer. , stripper or whatever, “” Always reaching out for humanity is, for me, an act of social justice, “she said.


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