Flyin’ West Returns to the ICT Stage After 17 Years

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Flyin West

A contemporary classic about the strength of black women and their role as pioneers in the settlement of the American West.

Four African-American women journey west to the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas in search of the freedom promised by the end of the Civil War. Saundra McClain directs Pearl Cleage’s powerful historical drama Flyin’ West, opening March 14 at International City Theatre in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Two low-priced previews take place on March 12 and March 13.

The Homestead Act of 1860 offered 320 acres of free land to U.S. citizens willing to settle in the western states. Based in part on actual journal entries, Flyin’ West highlights the struggles of black homesteaders who, following the advice of charismatic leader Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, took advantage of the Act to flee the racism and oppression of the South. Cleage gives us a glimpse of the tribulations faced by freed slaves even after the abolition of slavery, and of the quarter of a million unmarried or widowed black women who moved west to escape a white male-dominated world. 

“The play is a work of fiction, but Nicodemus is a real place and the story is inspired by historical fact,” says McClain. “These settlers were running away from the lawlessness and the lynchings of Jim Crow. Back in the cities, they were starting to lose some of the freedoms they had grown accustomed to during Reconstruction. Many didn’t realize until they got to Kansas just how rough it was going to be. It had been painted as the promised land by Pap Singleton. They were seeking a black Utopia.”

Flyin’ West was commissioned in 1992 by the Alliance Theatre Company and went on to become the country’s most-produced play in 1994. ICT presented the Los Angeles premiere in 1997, directed by then-artistic director Shashin Desai.

“It’s been seventeen years, and at that time ICT was a 99-seat black box theater,” says ICT artistic director caryn desai [sic]. “Now, as an Equity company in residence at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, we’re able to reach so many more people with this fascinating drama about a little-known chapter in American history. It’s a production I strongly feel deserves a revival.”

Flyin’ West runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., March 14 through April 6. Two preview performances take place on Wednesday, March 12 and Thursday, March 13 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $42 on Thursdays and $47 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, except opening night (March 14) for which tickets are $52 and includes a post-performance reception with the actors.

International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center at 300 E. Ocean Blvd. in Long Beach, CA 90802. For reservations and information, call the ICT Box Office at 562-436-4610 or

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