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  • Writer's picturePress Release

VSC and NSU Theatre Company Present Virtual Performance of The Parchman Hour

Updated: Dec 5, 2020

Songs and Stories of the '61 Freedom Riders

Information courtesy of Virginia Stage Company.

Virginia Stage Company launches a virtual presentation of The Parchman Hour: Songs and Stories of the ’61 Freedom Riders, a collaboration with Norfolk State University Theatre Company. After its triumphant run as part of Virginia Stage Company’s 39th Season, The Parchman Hour journeys through the Deep South with the pioneers who fought discrimination and paved the way for the future. Written and directed by Mike Wiley, this play is adapted from real life accounts of the 1961 Freedom Rides and shares these struggles through music that ranges from spirituals to Bob Dylan. This production will include recorded Zoom performances from the original VSC cast, as well as archival production footage from the 2017 production.

With history deeply rooted in racial tension, The Parchman Hour is produced in Norfolk, Virginia at a critical time. “This play is about a time in our recent past when men and women of all backgrounds came together to fight racial injustice,” says Tom Quaintance, Producing Artistic Director of Virginia Stage Company. “It was a country divided, with widespread protests gripping the nation. It is a play that speaks directly to our time’” Through song and storytelling, The Parchman Hour shadows our country’s past while sparking conversation about the present.

The Parchman Hour has streaming performances starting Thursday, October 8th through Saturday, October 10th at 7:30pm and a Sunday matinee on October 11th at 2pm. Tickets are $15 per household and can be purchased online.

This play contains racially charged language and scenes of violence and is recommended for ages 13 and older.

A Community Conversation will kick off the week of performances as part of Virginia Stage Company’s Wells-ness Wednesday series On October 7th at 7:30pm, Barbara Hamm Lee will lead a virtual panel: Theatre as Society’s Mirror. Freedom Rider Joan Trumpauer Mulholland joins playwright Mike Wiley, Norfolk Chief of Police Larry Boone and panelists engaged in contemporary racial justice protests to discuss the resonance The Parchman Hour has to our country today. This panel discussion is free but registration is required. To learn more about this event and other Wells-ness Wednesday series, visit:

Virginia Stage Company is southeastern Virginia’s leading theatre destination, normally serving an audience of over 58,000 annually both at the Wells Theatre and throughout the community. Since the shutdown in March, 2020, the Stage Company has pivoted to online content and has shared over 7,000 hours of free virtual content that has served more than 13,000 participants across the country. Virginia Stage Company’s mission is to “enrich, educate, and entertain the region by creating and producing theatrical art of the highest quality.”

Mike Wiley headshot

Mike Wiley (Writer and Director) is a North Carolina-based actor & playwright whose compelling works of documentary theatre yield powerful journeys through milestones and turning points of a shared American history. With a remarkable ability to inspire dialog, his creative vision and talents are broad and magnetic, leading audiences and communities to begin to peel layers and barriers to true “community.” When a curtain comes down on a Mike Wiley performance, the experience has far from “ended.” It’s more likely that light may have seeped through, that a stubborn door may have just nudged open.

His ensemble and solo-actor plays include The Parchman Hour, Downrange: Stories From The Homefront, Dar He: The Story Of Emmett Till, the theatrical adaptation of Tim Tyson’s Blood Done Sign My Name, the epic Leaving Eden, Breach Of Peace and more. The film adaptation of Wiley’s Dar He, in which he portrays 30+ roles, received more than 40 major film festival awards around the globe. The Parchman Hour was selected as the closing event of the official 50th year anniversary commemoration of the Freedom Riders in Jackson, MS and his plays have been selected for showcase by juries at a majority of performing arts conferences across America. His ensemble plays have been produced by major regional theatres in the US including Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, Hatiloo Theatre in Memphis, Playmakers Repertory Company in Chapel Hill, NC, Virginia Stage in Norfolk and Cape Fear Regional Theatre in Fayetteville, NC.

Wiley has more than fifteen years’ credits in documentary theatre for young audiences plus film, television and regional theatre. An Upward Bound alum and Trio Achiever Award recipient, he is an M.F.A. graduate of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and is a former Lehman-Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. He has conducted numerous educational residencies funded through grant programs of the North Carolina Arts Council and has performed across the US and in Canada. He is a 2017 recipient of the University of North Carolina’s Distinguished Alumni Award. His most recent large-scale ensemble-cast plays are Leaving Eden and Peace Of Clay (co-written with Howard Craft.) Wiley’s overriding goal is expanding cultural awareness for audiences of all ages through dynamic portrayals based on pivotal moments in African American history and, in doing so, helping to unveil a richer picture of the total American experience.

Cast members include:

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