The Parchman Hour, a play that portrays the bravery, struggles and sacrifices of the Freedom Riders, is returning to MS on May 26th.
“So people get ready, there’s a train a comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
Don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord.”
- Curtis Mayfield
CAN YOU IMAGINE…
… being sent to a maximum-security prison simply because you sat in the wrong area in a bus station waiting room?
On May 24, 1961, 19-year-old Jean Thompson boarded a Trailways bus in Montgomery, Alabama with 11 other young Freedom Riders. They were bound for New Orleans – and history.
These young Freedom Riders were putting their lives on the line to end segregated bus travel. Looking back, Jean realized that her father had prepared her for that day all of her life.
“My parents always talked about the injustice of segregation, but they were optimistic; they didn’t feel like it was going to last forever,” Thompson recalled. “They raised us to be ready.”
That life-changing day for Jean Thompson was the beginning of a movement that sent freedom rolling through the South, but only after some of the Freedom Riders were bombed, beaten and sent to Parchman Prison in Mississippi.
Can you imagine being sent to a notorious prison in Mississippi .. as a 19-year-old… in 1961?
ARE YOU READY…?
What would compel these young Freedom Riders to endure such hardships?
For decades that question was rarely asked because the historical significance of the Freedom Rides was missing from most history books and class discussions.
“The Freedom Riders? Wasn’t that a movie about those teenagers in California?” (No, that was The Freedom Writers.)
On March 5, 2011, my ensemble of mostly college students, left North Carolina and embarked on a journey to take The Parchman Hour, a play written and directed by me, Mike Wiley, on tour to Mississippi. (Many thanks to the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church for sponsoring this tour as part of their racial reconciliation initiative). During our opening night on March 6th we earned the Jessie Harris Freedom Rider seal of approval and experienced the magnificence of documentary theatre! (Have you watched the video? Wasn't that an incredible moment?)
After the tour, one of the ensemble members wrote:
"Here I am, in 2011, exactly 50 years after the rides, in the same stage of life as the people who took a chance and risked everything for social justice. I realize these people, these heroes, martyrs and leaders didn't wait until someone deemed them adult or educated. They stepped up immediately to bring change to their communities. They saw a problem, became the solution, and took action. This narrative [The Parchman Hour] has given me even greater inspiration to fight for what I know is right and to do that sooner rather than later." Emma DeWitt (Taken from Reflections in Mississippi: The Parchman Hour Tour)
That's the power and beauty of this documentary play. It entertains, inspires and educates in a medium young people in the 21st century understand: 3D, High Definition, Live Action!
GET ON BOARD!
On May 22, 2011, Freedom Riders from across the nation are gathering in Jackson, MS for the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides. This five-day reunion will end at Jackson State University with a special performance of The Parchman Hour on Thursday, May 26th at 7:30 p.m..
That’s right! Based on the reviews from our performances in March, we have been invited back. However, no one is sponsoring us this time.
Since the payment for our performance does not cover the full cost for the charter bus or lodging, we are asking for your support.
Funds above and beyond the requested $7000 will be used to turn our life-changing journey into an educational documentary. The documentary will show how The Parchman Hour grew from class discussions into a powerful stage performance.
"So people get ready,
there’s [a play] a-coming.
You don’t need no ticket.
You just get on board!"
Please join our effort to inspire and educate young people about the heroic acts of a group of mostly college students who became know as The Freedom Riders.
("Hey, didn’t Mike Wiley write a play about them?" Yes, I did, and I hope you will be able to see it in Jackson, MS on May 26th!)
Mike Wiley, Writer/Director
Reviews, Photos, Radio, Blogs:
Here's more information about The Parchman Hour:
- The Parchman Hour Updates and Photos (The Center For Documentary Studies at Duke) http://www.cdsporch.org/archives/5129
- Local Newspaper Review: http://www.indyweek.com/artery/archives/2010/12/03/mike-wiley-productions-the-parchman-hour'
- Review of The Parchman Hour in The Herald-Sun http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/12183048/article–The-Parchman-Hour
- Radio Interview with Mike Wiley and Freedom Rider Bill Svanoe: http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/The_Parchman_Hour.mp3/view
- Blog Post for Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement: https://lcrm.lib.unc.edu/blog/index.php/2010/12/15/mike-wileys-parchman-hour "When I left the theater after watching Mike Wiley’s The Parchman Hour, I was ready to fight for something."
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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Pledge $10 or moreYou selected
Thanks for helping us get ready! In addition to this virtual fist-pound, your name will appear in the "Special Thanks" credits at the end of the documentary!
Pledge $30 or moreYou selected
Thank you for getting on board! All of the above rewards are yours, plus a digital copy of "Reflections In Mississippi: The Parchman Hour Tour," written by our production company members with selected photos from the Tour! These insightful writings and vivid images bring you right into the heart of our Mississippi tour!
Pledge $60 or moreYou selected
Thank you for having faith in this project. In addition to the above rewards, you will receive a Mississippi Tour Souvenir Package, which includes a copy of an autographed playbill from the May 26th performance in Mississippi, an 8x10 autographed cast photo and a DVD of the Jessie Harris vignette. and will be listed as a "Special Ensemble Member" in the final credits of the documentary.
Pledge $100 or moreYou selected
The "Travelin' Shoes" Reward: Thank you for moving us into the future! All of the above rewards are yours, including a T-shirt and the honor of being listed as a "Special Associate Producer" and at least two invitations to online sneak previews!
Pledge $250 or moreYou selected
The "A Change is Gonna Come" Reward: Thank you for helping to send this play coast-to-coast. Your name will be moved to our "Special Executive Producer" list in the final credits! In addition to the other rewards mentioned, you will also receive an early copy of the full documentary which highlights the journey from classroom project to Mississippi premiere.
Pledge $500 or moreYou selected
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The Parchman Hour Dinner-Theatre Kickstarter Reward: Thank you for adding some high-octane power as we approach the last leg of our Kickstarter Project. In addition to all of the other rewards, you will receive a personal phone call from MIke Wiley, an additional T-shirt, a $60 gift certificate to a restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC (TBD), and Mike Wiley will buy you TWO tickets to the Playmakers Repertory Company Production of The Parchman Hour (in Chapel HIll, NC), which runs from October 26 to November 13, 2011. If he is available, Mike Wiley will even escort you and your guest to your seats! (Dates of the requested performance will be subject to availability. Transportation and/or lodging is NOT included or provided. There are only 4 rewards available at this level.)
- (30 days)