Naïma Hebrail Kidjo
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Naïma was born in France to Beninese singer Angélique Kidjo and composer Jean Hébrail. Through the years of moving back and forth between France and America, her passion for theatre remained constant. Now based more permanently in Los Angeles, she continues to act and write.
She received a BA in Theatre Studies from Yale University. There, her roles ranged from student written plays (Eat, Sleep, Drink, Die; Angels), musicals (Spring Awakening), and contemporary plays (Circle Mirror Transformation), to Shakespeare (The Tempest; Antony and Cleopatra). Outside of Yale she appeared in Dracula and Poof! by Lynn Nottage at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Her thesis, Pixel Souls, was the recipient of the Berkeley College Arts Prize.
In Chicago, Naïma worked with Dog & Pony Theatre Company, The Hypocrites, Pegasus Theatre Company, Lifeline Theatre, Teatro Vista, and Victory Gardens. Her favorite role was as Abigail Williams in The Crucible with Steppenwolf for Young Adults directed by Jonathan Berry.
Since moving to LA she has performed at Thymele Arts in the Pussygabber Plays, read in two "Square Circle" series which took place at Murmurs LA and the MOCA Geffen; she played Iseult in Pia Wilson's Iseult & Tristan both with IAMA Theatre Co in LA and LaMama Experimental Theatre Co. in NY. She even did a virtual play, Fort Huachuca, with SheArts LA during the pandemic lockdown.
Naïma also does voiceover work–her credits include the Illinois Lottery, and McDonald's. And she continues to write! She is developing two film projects and a musical theatre piece slated to premiere in 2022.
She has trained all over the world, at the Cours Florent in Paris, at RADA in London; she's worked with famed acting teachers Larry Moss and Sharon Chatten among others. When she is not acting, auditioning, and cooking–she teaches French to children and does lots of yoga!
"The project is a family affair, with music written by Kidjo and Jean Hebrail, her husband of 35 years — they met when Kidjo left then-repressive Benin for France — and text and lyrics by their daughter (an actor and writer) Naïma Hebrail Kidjo."
This is the first time Kidjo, 61, and her daughter, Naima, 28, have worked together artistically. 'I’ve been thinking about this for so long, and what Naïma has written is exactly what was deeply imbedded in my soul. It’s humbling and scary and joyful.' "
"Besides writing all the lyrics, Hebrail Kidjo also composed music for two songs. “That was a beautiful process, working so closely with my mom and my father, building that landscape together.”
The project has inspired her to write more. “I’m working on a short film project, in French, that I’m hoping to shoot in France sometime this year,” she said.
She visits Benin when she can. “That whole continent has so much beauty. I would go when I was a kid, and we had a really fun trip with all my cousins for my grandma’s 90th birthday.” The family matriarch passed last summer. 'In a lot of ways, [Yemandja] is an homage to her. The play is dedicated to my mom’s eldest brother, Oscar, who passed in 2018. He was a spiritual leader in our community, always talking about how important it was to help people find balance between modern life and tradition.”
Pas facile de trouver la sienne quand on est la fille d'une voix qui résonne aussi fort dans le monde artistique et au-delà. En s'inspirant des valeurs transmises par des parents modernes et aimants, la chanteuse béninoise a donné les armes à sa fille pour tracer son propre chemin.
De l’énergie, elles vont en avoir besoin. Si la mère et la fille sont réunies à New York, entre deux concerts pour l’une, et un tournage de série ou une répétition de théâtre pour l’autre, c’est parce qu’elles travaillent sur un projet commun : une « pièce de théâtre musicale » dans laquelle un baptême traditionnel béninois servira de point de départ symbolique au récit de l’histoire de l’esclavage. « C’est aussi son histoire à elle, insiste la chanteuse née à Ouidah il y a 59 ans.
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The Crucible (Directed by Jonathan Berry). Steppenwolf Theatre Company, 2017
"But as an audience member I can see ways to forgive Abigail, especially with these particular performances. She does a good job of making me hate her in some scenes and in other scenes be able to see where she was coming from, which is a really hard thing for an actor to do."
"Further complicating the fraught situation is the lust that the most audacious of the frolicking girls, Abigail (played with insidious determination by Naima Hebrail Kidjo), harbors for Proctor. "
"Naima Hebrail Kidjo, a Steppenwolf Theatre Company newcomer, also brings fresh perspective to Abigail Williams, the lovestruck, scorned minister’s niece whom community members of all genders, age and religious devotion learn to fear. [...] Kidjo and Knight display an electric chemistry that does more than hint at the fleeting, mutual passion that once existed between the characters."
"Inciting them with a very visual vengeance is Naïma Hebrail Kidjo as a hypocrisy-hating whore who strategically re-invents herself as the foe of Satan."
"A shrewd Kidjo tries to convince Knight that she is working for a better future for them. [...] At this point, Kidjo is driven by power not love."
"Naima [Hebrail] Kidjo is a standout as Red Eyes, the queen-bee villain of the tale."
"The Man with Red Eyes becomes known simply as Red Eyes, and is fiercely played by Naima Hebrail who towers over the stage and crowd with her commanding voice and tremendous presence. "
"Naïma Hebrail Kidjo shines darkly as the contemptuously superior spokes-alien for Camazotz’s deranged, torture-loving maximum leader."
A Wrinkle in Time (Adapted by James Sie; Directed by Elise Kauzlaric). Lifeline Theatre Company, 2017
Rutherford's Travels (by Illesa Duncan and David Barr, III. Directed by Illesa Duncan) Pegasus Theatre Company, 2016
"an altogether unforgettable turn by Naima Hebrail Kidjo"
"Kidjo brings forthright wit to Isadora — we can see that she also has a dangerous streak under her buttoned-down exterior. "
"Naïma Hebrail Kidjo, as Isadora, captures the subtle comedy of her character perfectly, as a woman who is cleverly coy beneath a dignified pose. "
"featuring memorable character work by [...] newcomer Naima Hebrail Kidjo "
Conceived by Angélique Kidjo, Jean Hebrail & Naïma Hebrail Kidjo, with book & lyrics by Naïma Hebrail Kidjo, and music by Angélique Kidjo & Jean Hebrail, Yemandja has been developed with and directed by veteran theatrical genius Cheryl Lynn Bruce. Created in partnership with a stellar team of creative collaborators, including visual design by Kerry James Marshall, lighting by Kathy A. Perkins, projections by Rasean Davonte Johnson, costumes by Mary Jane Marcasiano, choreography by Beatrice Capote, and musical direction by John Samorian, Yemandja features Kidjo, who plays the Yoruba orisha Yemandja, a cast of nine Broadway performers and an eclectic musical ensemble including african percussion, electric bass, guitars, and keyboards. Yemandja is a full theatrical work of magical realism that illuminates what happens when people are robbed of their culture.
Executive Producer is Xtina Parks. Producer is THE OFFICE performing arts+film and is co-commissioned by a consortium of global partners including ArtsEmerson, The Broad Stage at Santa Monica College, Brown Arts Institute, Cal Performances, Ruth and Stephen Hendel, Holland Festival, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, MASS MoCA and Yale Schwarzman Center.
March 4-5, 2022 | World Premiere Presentation at MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA)
April 11-17, 2022 | The Main Stage at The Broad Stage (Santa Monica, CA)
April 20-24, 2022 | Zellerbach Hall at Cal Performances (Berkeley, CA)
May 6-7, 2022 | Eisenhower Theater at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
June 16-18, 2022 Holland Festival (International Theatre Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
November 7-13, 2022 | Majestic Theater at ArtsEmerson
April 2023 | Brown Arts Institute
Fall 2023 | Schwarzman Center Yale University
Additional dates to be announced.
March 4-5, 2022 | World Premiere Presentation at MASS MoCA (North Adams, MA)
April 14-16, 2022 7:30 pm | The Main Stage at The Broad Stage (Santa Monica, CA)
April 23rd, 2022 8pm | Zellerbach Hall at Cal Performances (Berkeley, CA)
May 6-7, 2022 8pm | Eisenhower Theater at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)