Sherri Roulette-Mosley as Aunt Ester in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean at MET in 2017. (photo by Bob Paisley)
“There are so many stories and people that live theatre lets you discover. Until just a year ago, I had never heard of the play FLYIN’ WEST, the town of Nicodemus or known the history of these amazing women and the role they played in settling the Midwest. Wow, what courage and vision they had.” — Karen Paisley, MET Artistic Director
What led you to choose this play for this year’s season? I had the chance to settle down and read the play last winter while searching for this season’s selections. As soon as I picked up FLYIN’ WEST, I knew we had the right women for these roles. My first call was to Sherri Roulette Mosley — because I knew I couldn’t do it without her as Miss Leah. Sherri has been a big part of so many productions here from Kentucky Cycle, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Gem of the Ocean and others. When building a play, it really helps to have an anchor artist like her. Our acting community is rich with talent. It’s going to be such fun to create this play together.
Do you think local audiences may be surprised to discover this play too? Absolutely. There’s so much to learn. Here’s the history…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 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. 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.
THE STORY: Facing problems ranging from the inevitability of long, cold winters, to the possibility of domestic violence, to the continuing spectra of racial conflict, the women of FLYIN’ WEST include Miss Leah, the old woman whose memories of slavery and its aftermath comprise a living oral history; Sophie Washington, whose determination to protect her land and those she loves puts to rest forever the requirement that western archetypes be white and male; Fannie Mae Dove, the gentle sister, trying to civilize the frontier with fine china and roses, who finds herself falling in love with their soft-spoken neighbor, Wil Parish; and Minnie Dove Charles, the headstrong baby sister whose mixed-race husband, Frank, introduces a danger into the household that tests their sisterhood in unexpected ways.
“Pearl Cleage’s FLYIN’ WEST . . . [is] a real crowd-pleaser, and its characters have humor and vitality . . . Cleage [is] a natural-born storyteller…” — Washington Post
“Pearl Cleage’s FLYIN’ WEST is a broadly rendered…sweet anthem of a play” — NY Times
“FLYIN’ WEST is the most potent, gripping play…a paean to women…and a plea for all women with vibrant lives to tell their oral stories…” — NY Times
FLYIN’ WEST opens at MET March 31 and runs through April 10. For tickets visit metkc.org or call 816-569-3226.