PlayMakers Repertory Company will present world premiere of The Parchman Hour: The Songs and Stories of the ’61 Freedom Riders, a stirring docudrama with music written and directed by Mike Wiley, on Oct. 26-30 and Nov. 1-6 and 8-13 in the Paul Green Theatre in the University of North Carolina’s Center for Dramatic Art.
According to UNC’s critically acclaimed professional-theater-in residence:
“In the summer of 1961, the fiery first months of America’s Civil Rights movement, waves of young people rode buses into the heart of the Deep South. Mostly college students, these interracial groups challenged Jim Crow laws that segregated interstate travel. Their bravery helped change the course of American history….
“Many of the Freedom Riders were brutally attacked, arrested, and imprisoned in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Farm Penitentiary. There they invented an ingenious pastime to help them endure: a live variety show inspired by programs then popular on radio and television. Jokes, stories, singing, and Bible readings sprang from every cell. This nightly event became known as ‘The Parchman Hour.’
“‘With characters including Stokely Carmichael [1941-98] and Martin Luther King [1929-68], The Parchman Hour honors an important piece of history,’ said Joseph Haj, PlayMakers producing artistic director. ‘PlayMakers is proud to give this inspiring new play its professional premiere.’
“The Parchman Hour is written and directed by Mike Wiley, a specialist in documentary theater. Wiley was the 2010 Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and UNC. He graduated from UNC’s Professional Actor Training Program in 2004.
“As founder of Mike Wiley Productions, he presents original plays at theaters and educational settings nationwide, including Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till and his stage adaptation of Tim Tyson’s book Blood Done Sign My Name.
“The Parchman Hour, Wiley’s newest work, was originally staged in 2010 as a student production by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke [University] and UNC’s Department of Dramatic Art. The student production was also featured in workshop in May 2010 as the finale event of the Freedom Riders’ 50th anniversary commemoration in Jackson, Mississippi.
“The Independent Weekly has called Mike Wiley ‘one of this region’s foremost monologists and playwrights’ and The Parchman Hour ‘a strong — actually, make that necessary — reminder, not only of the starkest realities of the segregated South, but of the astounding resilience of those who chose to stand against it.'”
The Parchman Hour cast includes Dee Dee Batteast as Lucretia Collins, Doug Bynum as John Lewis, Nathaniel Claridad as Carol Silver, David Aron Damane as Pee Wee, Kelsey Didion as Bill Svanoe, John Dreher as Papa, Matt Garner as Elwood, Rasool Jahan as Mimi Real, Randa McNamara as Tyson, Alphonse Nicholson as Freddy Leonard, Kashif Powell as Stokely Carmichael, and Jessica Sorgi as Janie. The ensemble includes Kathryn Hunter-Williams, Nilan Johnson, and Allen Tedder.
In addition to playwright and director Mike Wiley and PlayMakers Repertory Company producing artistic director Joe Haj, the PRC creative team for The Parchman Hour includes choreographer Aya Shabu, music director Rozlyn Sorrell, movement coach Craig Turner, vocal coach John Patrick, set designer McKay Coble, lighting designer Kathy A. Perkins, costume designer Rachel E. Pollock, video designer Roz Fulton, sound designer Ryan J. Gastelum, dramaturgs Ashley Lucas and Mark Perry, and stage managers Charles K. Bayang and Sarah Smiley.
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 31st Chapel Hill, NC Chapel Hill Magazine review by Andrea Griffith Cash: http://www.chapelhillmagazine.com/blogs/chapel-hill-magazine-blog/’the-parchman-hour’; Oct. 31st Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Jeffrey Rossman: http://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=5148; Oct. 28th Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/16186273/article-Freedom-Riders-on-stage-in-“The-Parchman-Hour”-?instance=main_article (Note: You must register first to read this article); Oct. 30th Chapel Hill, NC Daily Tar Heel review by Katelyn Trela: http://www.dailytarheel.com/index.php/article/2011/10/parchman_succeeds_in_song and Oct. 25th preview by Nidhi Singh: http://www.dailytarheel.com/index.php/article/2011/10/mike_wiley_1026; and Oct. 20th Durham, NC Chronicle preview by Jamie Moon: http://dukechronicle.com/article/parchman-hour-helps-construct-legacy-imprisoned-freedom-riders.
PlayMakers Repertory Company presents THE PARCHMAN HOUR: SONGS AND STORIES OF THE ’61 FREEDOM RIDERS, world premiere by Mike Wiley, at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26-28 Previews, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29 Opening Night, 2 p.m. Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1-4, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5, 2 p.m. Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8-12, and 2 p.m. Nov. 13 in the Paul Green Theatre in the Center for Dramatic Art, 120 Country Club Rd., at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC 27514.
TICKETS: $10-$35, except $45 Opening Night show and reception of Oct. 29th, $10 Tuesday “Community Night” performances, and $10 Student Rush Tickets for UNC students (sold one hour before the show).
BOX OFFICE: 919/962-PLAY or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/843-2311, firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.playmakersrep.org/tickets/groupsales.aspx.
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrPddqZTnJ0&feature=youtu.be.
PRC BLOG: http://playmakersrep.blogspot.com/.
NOTE 1: All tickets are $10, and seating is general admission for the 7:30 p.m. Tuesday “Community Night” performances.
NOTE 2: At 5 p.m. on Oct. 26th, there will be a program at UNC’s Wilson Library (http://www.lib.unc.edu/wilson/) entitled “The Long Road to Parchman: North Carolina and the Desegregation of Interstate Busing.” Sponsored by PlayMakers, the library’s Southern Historical and North Carolina collections, and Friends of the Library, the program will feature playwright Mike Wiley and Derek Charles Catsam, author of Freedom’s Main Line: The Journey of Reconciliation and the Freedom Rides (2008). They will discuss the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, in which an interracial group of 16 challenged segregation on buses in the South, and the 1961 Freedom Riders. There will be a reception in the library lobby, starting at 5 p.m., followed by the discussion at 5:30 p.m. in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room.
NOTE 3: On Nov. 2nd and 6th, there will be FREE post-performance discussions with representatives of the show’s creative team, including designers, production staff, and/or actors.
NOTE 4: The Prologue Series, created by PlayMakers and the Chapel Hill Library, is a pre-show conversation with a member of the PlayMakers creative team at the library at 12 noon on Nov. 5th at Flyleaf Books (http://www.flyleafbooks.com/), 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514.
NOTE 5: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh (http://www.artsaccessinc.org/) will audio describe the 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8th performance, which will also be sign-language interpreted.
NOTE 6: The North Carolina Psychoanalytic Foundation (http://www.ncpsychoanalysis.org/), the Lucy Daniels Foundation (http://www.ldf.org/home/), and the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society (http://www.ncpsasoc.org/) will sponsor “Mindplay: A 50-minute Hour,” a FREE psychoanalytic discussion led by John Tisdale, DMin, after the 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12th and 2 p.m. Nov. 13th performances.
The Play: http://www.mikewileyproductions.com/play_parchman.html (official web page).
The Playwright: http://www.mikewileyproductions.com/ (official website).
Freedom Riders: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_riders (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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