PINE BLUFF, Ark. – The John McLinn Ross Players, the premier theatrical performance group at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) will open their Onward and Upward season with a performance of Flyin’ West by Pearl Cleage. Directed by Cheryl Collins, director of Theater, the show will run Thursday, November 21 through Sunday, November 24 in the John M. Ross auditorium of the Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Center.
Following the end of the Civil War, many former slaves, anxious to leave the South and the increasing disappointments and dangers of Reconstruction, took advantage of The Homestead Act of 1862 and went West to build new lives for themselves and their families. Many of these homesteaders were black women who overcame tremendous odds to work their own land and make a place for themselves in an often harsh and forbidding environment that included long, cold winters, the possibility of domestic violence and the continuing spectra of racial conflict. Set in 1898, Flyin’ West is the story of some of these African-American female pioneers who settled together in the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas.
Writer, playwright, poet, essayist, and journalist Pearl Michelle Cleage was born on December 7, 1948 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Cleage is the youngest daughter of Doris Graham and Albert B. Cleage Jr., the founder of the Shrine of the Black Madonna. Cleage has become accomplished in all aspects of her career. As a writer, she has written three novels: What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Avon Books, 1997), which was an Oprah’s Book club selection, a New York Times bestseller, and a BCALA Literary Award Winner, I Wish I Had a Red Dress (Morrow/Avon, 2001), and Some Things I Never Thought I’d Do, which was published in 2003. As an essayist, many of her essays and articles have appeared in magazines such as Essence, Ms., Vibe, Rap Pages, and many other publications. Examples of these essays include Mad at Miles and Good Brother Blues. Cleage has written over a dozen plays, some of which include Flyin’ West, Bourbon at the Border, and Blues for an Alabama Sky, which returned to Atlanta as part of the 1996 Cultural Olympiad in conjunction with the 1996 Olympic Games. In addition to her writing she has been an activist all her life. Starting at her father’s church, The Shrine of the Black Madonna, Cleage has been involved in the Pan-Africanist Movement, Civil Rights Movement and Feminist Movement. She has also been a pioneer in grassroots and community theater. Cleage is the mother of one daughter, Deignan, the grandmother of one grandson, Michael, and one granddaughter, Chloe Pearl. She is married to Zaron W. Burnett, a writer with whom she frequently collaborates.
Washington Post says that “Pearl Cleage’s FLYIN’ WEST…[is] a real crowed pleasure, and its characters have humor and vitality…Cleage [is] a natural-born storyteller”. The New York Times touts Flyin’ West as “as the most potent, gripping play…a paean to women…and a plea for all women with vibrant lives to tell their oral stories.”
Performances times and ticket prices are as follows:
7:30 PM (November 21-22)
3:00 PM (November 23-24)
$10 General Admission
$5 Students with ID/ Children under 12
$6 Groups of 10+
You may call 870-575-8428 to book your season, group or individual tickets for performances of Flyin’ West.