Passing the Torch:Mississippi 50th Freedom Riders Reunion “Brilliant” Theatrical Musical

President Obama has been invited with Who's Who of Hollywood, Broadway & Civil Rights Movement to attend a compelling on stage musical performance honoring the 100 Freedom Riders attending their 50th Reunion in Jackson, MS with "The Parchman Hour".
By: Gary Namm
May 21, 2011 - PRLog -- Chapel Hill, NC, May 18, 2011 - The Mississippi 50th Freedom Riders Reunion is concluding its week long events with a standing ovation finale featuring The Parchman Hour. This production is written and directed by actor/playwright Mike Wiley showcasing some of the finest young actors from across America courtesy of the University of North Carolina Department for Dramatic Arts and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. The Parchman Hour will be performed at Jackson State University in The Rose McCoy Auditorium on Thursday evening, May 26th, 2011 @ 7:30 pm.

United States President Barack Obama and First Lady have been invited to this moving performance to honor the more than 100 Freedom Riders expected to attend the gathering in Jackson, Mississippi fifty years later.  Scores of Freedom Riders recently were featured on The Oprah Show on May 4, 2011.

The Parchman Hour is a self-funded musical celebration of bravery and a call to action through remembrance. As you join their laughter, sing their songs, consider their debates and relive their memories, you will discover what motivated this unlikely group of everyday heroes and why they were willing to put their lives on the line. Perhaps you may find yourself asking the following: “Under what circumstances would I do the same? Who needs my words, my song, my voice today?”  

Presented in the style of the variety shows of yesteryear, this dynamic production explores three of the tensest months of 1961. The Parchman Hour brings to the stage powerful oral histories and conversations from the Freedom Rides’ most iconic protagonists and antagonists alike.

In 1961, a group of mostly young people came together from across the United States leaving families, college campuses, and jobs to board buses headed for the Deep South. Their plan was simple, quite innocuous in fact. Integrated teams would embark on interstate trips and simply ignore the signs designed to segregate them by race. What could be more harmless?

These simple acts of nonviolent direct action landed many of the riders in jail. Some were beaten and hospitalized. Some were sent to the infamous Parchman Penitentiary in Mississippi. On the eve of the Mississippi 50th Reunion of the Freedom Riders, actor and playwright Mike Wiley (Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till and the theatrical adaptation of the best-selling Blood Done Sign My Name) makes his directorial debut with this latest production hailing from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.    


"Mike Wiley's The Parchman Hour is magnificent, moving, historically pitch-perfect, brilliantly conceived ... Don't be put away when I say it is as well-executed a piece of learning as I've ever seen -- because it is great, great theater."  Hodding Carter

"Almost fifty years after the Freedom Rides I was blessed to witness the dramatic retelling of our struggle and see a new generation of young folks learning about our efforts to break down barriers - I felt the presence of the “beloved community” we dreamed about in 1961."  Freedom Rider Attorney Charles Jones

Best Original Script/Adaptation: Independent Weekly
Best Director: Independent Weekly
Best Production: Independent Weekly
Best Musical Direction: Independent Weekly

The Parchman Hour performance on May 26, 2011 will be held at Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi in The Rose McCoy Auditorium - the performance is free.  For information on the Freedom Riders Reunion please call Flonzie Brown-Wright at 601.979.1517 or visit:

Here is the link to an excerpt of The Parchman Hour:

For information on support for The Parchman Hour, please visit:


This production is the fruit of Mike Wiley’s two-semester residency at Duke and UNC involving select students from both campuses as well as members of the community. Wiley, the Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke and UNC (Spring and Fall 2010), has been teaching classes in documentary theater which engages students in researching, writing and theatrical performance debuting as The Parchman Hour.  


Playwright and actor Mike Wiley has more than twelve years of credits in theater for young audiences and in film, television, and regional theater. Wiley’s work focuses on expanding cultural awareness through dynamic portrayals based on pivotal moments in African American history. In doing so, he hopes to unveil a richer picture of the total American experience. His expanding repertoire of original productions displays his acclaimed ability to bring to life multiple intertwined characters, with Wiley often portraying more than two dozen people in a single “one-man” drama.  

Editor’s Note:  Interviews are available for Mr. Wiley and members of the cast.  For additional information or to arrange an interview prior to the May 26th performance, please contact Gary Namm.  On the date of the performance, contact Janet Perez, Company Manager of The Parchman Hour: 704.806.8747.

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