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About the Play

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.

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.

About the Play

Pearl Cleage is an African-American playwright, essayist, novelist, poet, feminist, and political activist. Based on historical events and set in 1889, this is the story of African-American female pioneers who settled, together, in the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas.

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.

The Characters:

Frank Charles - Frank is Minnie’s thirty-six-year-old domineering and abusive husband. He is a man of mixed heritage whose mother was a slave owned by his father. Because of his light skin, he is often mistaken for a white man.

Minnie Dove Charles - Minnie turns twenty-one years old during the play and is married to Frank, who is fifteen years her senior. While Minnie loves her family very much, she is not strong enough to stand up to her abusive husband.

Fannie Dove - Fannie is thirty-two years old and unmarried. She lives with Sophie and Miss Leah outside the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas. She and the other women run a wheat farm and have achieved self-sufficiency.


Miss Leah - Miss Leah is a seventy-three-year-old woman who spent most of her life in slavery. She gave birth to ten children while she was a slave, and she lost them all to the trade. Miss Leah now lives with Sophie and Fannie. She is a feisty woman who demands respect, speaks her mind, and believes strongly in the oral tradition.

Wil Parish - Wil is a forty-year-old man who was born into slavery. He is a trusted and loyal friend of the women, but he has a special relationship with Fannie. At the end of the play, they are finally engaged.

Sophie Washington - Sophie is a thirty-six-year-old woman who was born into slavery and is now determined to make the most of her chance at independence. She is strong, both physically and emotionally, and she performs her responsibilities without complaining. She is also a visionary with a plan for what Nicodemus can become in the future.


Past Productions

  • Light Skin Brother


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5280 Artist Co-Op is a company formed for the purpose of bringing artists together from all disciplines to produce great art that touches the heart of our community. Through poetry, theatre, music, and fine art we strive to deliver experiences that capture the imagination, warm the heart, and uplift the spirit.

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