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 mulatto husband, Frank, introduces a danger into the household that tests their sisterhood in unexpected ways.
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. “Pearl Cleage’s FLYIN’ WEST…[is] a real crowed pleasure, 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, celebrating, as one character…says to a newborn infant, “all them fine colored women makin’ a place for you.” —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.