Generic Theater inaugurates its 43rd season with Flyin’ West, written by award-winning playwright and New York Times bestselling author Pearl Cleage. Terrance Afer-Anderson directs this production, running weekends September 8 – October 1 at Generic Theater, Norfolk’s underground theater located in the basement of Chrysler Hall.
Following the end of the Civil War, many former slaves 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, Pearl Cleage’s Flyin’ West is the story of some of these African-American female pioneers who settled together in the all-Black town of Nicodemus, Kansas, facing problems ranging from the inevitability of long, cold winters to the possibility of domestic violence to the continuing spectra of racial conflict. It is a call to all women to follow their dreams, create lives that are meaningful, and to honestly tell their stories.
Director Terrance Afer-Anderson approaches Flyin’ West as “a unique opportunity to showcase the often-overlooked history of African-American pioneers.” Although the play is fiction, it’s set within the historical context of the “Great Exodus” of the late 1800s and the real town of Nicodemus, Kansas. Additionally, Cleage’s play focuses on a household of women, giving voice to this powerful community. “Flyin’ West is an anthem to Black sisterhood,” observes Afer-Anderson, “and is a masterpiece of theatre literature.”
Generic Theater’s production of Flyin’ West features two casts. “I wanted to share the remarkably gifted pool of acting talent we have locally, expressly focusing on African American artists, so I opted to go with two casts,” declared Afer-Anderson. The Nicodemus Cast features Jennifer Kelly-Cooper as Sophie Washington and Acquanetta Spencer as Miss Leah, with KaJohnna Johnson as Fannie Dove, Billie D. Wilbert as Wil Parish, Ashlee Rey as Minnie Dove Charles, and Kiyante Smith as Frank Charles. The N. Kansas cast features Jennifer Kelly-Cooper as Sophie Washington and Cynthia Tademy as Miss Leah, with Rosaye Suprius as Fannie Dove, Jeff Phillips as Wil Parish, Ashlee Rey as Minnie Dove Charles, and Ethan Marten as Frank Charles.
As one of the founders of Norfolk’s Generic Theater, Terrance Afer-Anderson considers this directing experience to be especially personal. “I’m coming back home, in very moving fashion, to where my artistic journey began. Flyin’ West has a profound personal meaning for me.” He believes that the audience will be similarly moved by the production. “Our actors are going to electrify the stage, filling the room with their own extraordinary energy.”
Flyin’ West runs weekends from September 8th – October 1st. Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 8:00pm and Sunday performances are at 2:30pm. Generic’s black-box theater is located in the basement of Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, Virginia. Tickets are $18 in advance or $20 same day, with discounts for military, senior, and student patrons, and can be purchased online at https://www.generictheater.org
About Generic Theater
Generic Theater is Norfolk, Virginia’s literal underground theater, located in the basement of Chrysler Hall. Since 1981, Generic Theater has been the area’s “Off-Broadway” playhouse, producing plays and public programs that challenge and delight audiences, take risks, and are unlikely to be seen anywhere else. Generic Theater is committed to innovative productions of contemporary works, new plays, and reinterpretations of the classics. We explore issues of importance to our diverse community via provocative works and collaborative partnerships. We provide experienced artists and technicians space to craft great theater while also seeking to nurture and develop new talent in Hampton Roads. Learn more at GenericTheater.org, @GenericTheater on Facebook and Instagram, or @theGenericTheater on TikTok.