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Ron OJ Parson to helm Pearl Cleage's powerful frontier saga Flyin' West at Court Theatre

Feb. 12, 2007

Court Theatre continues its exploration of classic plays by African-American playwrights with Pearl Cleage’s moving story of African-American pioneers on the Kansas prairie, Flyin' West. Court Resident Artist Ron OJ Parson, lauded for Court’s critically acclaimed, Jeff Award-winning production of August Wilson’s Fences, will direct the production. Cleage’s play, which looks at a little-known chapter in American history, offers new insight into “How the West Was Won.”

Previews of Flyin' West begin Thursday, March 8, 2007, and the press opening is Saturday, March 17 at 8 p.m.  Tickets to Flyin' West range from $28 to $54 and are on sale now at the Court Theatre box office, (773) 753-4472, and online at  Performances run Wednesday to Sunday until April 8, 2007 in the intimate, 251-seat Abelson Auditorium at Court Theatre (5535 S. Ellis Ave., in Hyde Park on the University of Chicago campus. Free parking is available.) The production is made possible in part by the Chicago Community Trust and Kirkland & Ellis.

A modern classic, Flyin' West tells the story of four African-American homesteaders who move West to escape racial violence in the post-Civil War South. They settle in the all-black town of Nicodemus, only to find their independence subject to new threats.  The rash of lynching in the late 19th century prompted the Memphis journalist Ida B. Wells to encourage her readers to “save our money and leave a town which will neither protect our lives and property, nor give us a fair trial in the courts, but takes us out and murders us in cold blood when accused by white persons.”  More than just a dramatic account of “the Exodus of 1879”, Flyin' West is a richly compelling portrait addressing issues of family, community, domestic violence, and racial identity. Flyin' West draws upon the 1860 Homestead Act which enabled settlers — including thousands of African-American men, women and children, many of whom had been born into slavery — to own land.

Court began its exploration of the African-American canon with Fences, which the Wall Street Journal raved was “produced with supreme skill.”  Court hopes to build on this momentum, presenting Flyin' West in a season that kicked off with Raisin, the musical based on Lorraine Hansberry’s South Side classic, A Raisin in the Sun. Parson will reunite with Fences set designer Jack Magaw and lighting designer Kathy Perkins to draw from the play’s classic narrative style, richly poetic text, compelling character development and historic roots to create a riveting production. 

Court Theatre is pleased to announce that playwright Pearl Cleage will be doing a post-play discussion at Court Theatre immediately following the performance of Flyin' West on Saturday, March 24th at 8:00 p.m. Ms. Cleage will also participate in a book signing at Borders Books in Hyde Park on March 24th in conjunction with Court’s production of Flyin' West and with Eclipse Theatre’s production of Blues for An Alabama Sky.

For more information on the cast and production crew, click here.

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Last modified at 11:09 AM CST on Monday, July 23, 2007

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