Those who grew up with classic Hollywood Westerns filled with cowboy heroes shooting their way to justice will find a sharp departure in Bowie Community Theatre’s production of Pearl Cleage’s “Flyin’ West” telling of the historical achievement of strong black pioneer women. Scheduled for a 3-weekend run at Bowie Playhouse starting this Friday, April 10th, Flyin’ West introduces audiences to courageous women a few decades after the end of the Civil War, anxious to leave the South and the problems of Reconstruction.
Determined to succeed at building new lives for themselves and their families, these women took advantage of the Homestead Act and went west overcoming tremendous odds as pioneers conquering a forbidding environment to stake claim on Western land in 1898 these African-American pioneer women settled together in the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas.
Author Pearl Cleage’s 1992 ground-breaking play relates this nearly un-told and unknown factual history of these women – several former slaves and other pioneer women who continued to confront sexism and racism on their way toward achieving independence with their land ownership has now become a theater classic that may be new to Bowie audiences. In truth BCT’s production of this show will be a first for this theater reviewer.
The fact that it is seldom performed in our area is one valid reason for theater goers to see this thought-provoking, spiritually enriching show that is not without humor. Just as actors need to be challenged to stay at the top of their game, so too do theater fans. Both groups are indebted to Bowie Community Theatre for presenting this work.
As Director Estelle Miller reminds, “Bowie Community Theatre has never been afraid of presenting a work that is different and thought-provoking,” and adding, “I applaud them for that, as I also love to do meaningful work. A theater cannot grow or attract actors without offering some roles that truly challenge.”
Because Flyin’ West is based on historical fact, Estelle Miller for more than a year learned all she could “about the town of Nicodemus, Kansas as well as the people who settled there and why they came.” Because Miller she had studied the period, she expected her cast members “to do their own research so they could better understand that time in our history and the people that lived it. It was also important that they recall all they had experienced growing up African-American and put themselves in the bodies and minds of the characters they would have to become.”
An additional valuable source of information on the cast can be found in Joel Markowitz’s interviews with all cast members on DCMetroTheaterArts. Here I learned of Kecia Campbell’s playing Sophie, which I look forward to – ecstatic at the opportunity to witness another performance by Kecia Campbell whose stunning soliloquies that opened and closed Colonial Players’ riveting production of Coyote on a Fence in January 2014 is engraved on my memory of major theatrical experiences.
BCT’s Flyin’ West is a not-to-be-missed theater opportunity for all serious theater-goers.
Flyin’ West opens April 10, 2015 and plays through April 25, 2015 at The Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call (301) 805-0219, or purchase them online, or at the door.
Meet the Cast and Director of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part One: Drector Estelle Miller.
Meet the Cast and Director of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part Two: Kecia A. Campbell.
Meet the Cast of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part 3: Sandra Cox True.
Meet the Cast of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part 4: Darius McCall.
Meet the Cast of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part 5: Brawnlyn Blueitt.
Meet the Cast of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part 6: Ben Harris.
Meet the Cast of ‘Flyin’ West’ at Bowie Community Theatre: Part 7: Lolita Marie.