Original Works

 
 
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Now Booking for the 2021-2022 Season... 


Flushing

 A puppet piece for adult audiences.

Yankee Bajan

by Linda Parris-Bailey

A work in progress, supported by Creative Capital, premiering in the 2022-23 season.

Yankee Bajan is a play with music that explores the experience of the American expatriate returning to the land of his/her family origins. The primary  question is: How can one return home to a place that has never been home and what cultural and colonial baggage does one bring to that experience? It also asks, what forces are currently in place in the United States that would drive a family to consider the expatriate experience? After four years of the “Trump Experience,” what has become of America? What have we lost and what are we seeking?

In this moment when the safety of our children is questionable and the rates of incarceration threaten every Black family and our communities have stagnated for 50 years, it is necessary for us to explore all of our options. The creative approach will include all of the ironies and comedies of place and musical references from Brooklyn to Barbados. Thru live performance I will engage the audience in an experience that takes them back thru the cruelest of slave narratives in Barbados, thru the escape from poverty and hurricanes to the land of liberty, and finally the return of the native sons and daughters to the new reality of a Caribbean island.

Flushing

by Linda Parris-Bailey and Eric Bass

Premiering in 2021

Flushing is a new puppet piece for adult audiences being created by Linda Parris-Bailey, Playwright/President & CEO of Parris-Bailey Arts, and Eric Bass, Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Sandglass Theater. Directed by Kathie DeNobriga.

After years of knowing each other as theater colleagues, Linda and Eric discovered by chance that they grew up only a few miles apart at around the same time in Flushing, NY. Though their life paths took them in different directions and to different parts of the globe, they once again find themselves in a similar place– in the process of handing their theater companies to a younger generation of leaders and facing the "Brink" of leadership succession. Flushing is a journey that the audience takes with Linda and Eric from present to past to present and engages with issues of race, legacy, and identity. Together, we look into the abyss, sometimes from the edge of a South American volcano, sometimes from the window of a speeding subway train, sometimes through our parents' nightmares to connect with where we come from and how we got here.

The project is being developed over a series of workshop residencies and will premiere in 2021.

Speed Killed My Cousin

by Linda Parris-Bailey

Photography by Kacey Anisa

Photography by Kacey Anisa

Photography by Kacey Anisa

Photography by Kacey Anisa

2012

This timely new work follows the first women combat veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and their uneasy return home. Speed Killed My Cousin is the story of a young, African-American, woman soldier of the Iraq war, and her struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Diagnosis (PTSD).  The play takes place in a Hummer, as the main character is driving down the L.I.E. highway in New York.  As she struggles with flashbacks and memories, she tries to talk with her father about his experience in the Vietnam war, and her cousin – a Vietnam veteran who died in a car crash shortly after his return.  She also remembers the women she left behind in Iraq, some of whom did not survive.  Memories and scenes unfold before her, and in the rear-view mirror, as she’s driving.  Ultimately she must decide whether or not to let go of the wheel, as her cousin did, or to choose life.  

Recent Performances: El Centro Su Teatro 2017; ASU Gammage Performing Arts Center, 2016; Orlando Museum of Art as part of the Zora Neale Hurston Festival in partnership with Alternate ROOTS 2015; The Carver San Antonio, South Dallas Cultural Center, MECA Houston 2014; Junebug Productions as part of the New Orleans Fringe Festival 2013; and CBT as part of the NET Micro-Fest: Knoxville, TN 2012.

Talkin’ Dirt

by Linda Parris-Bailey in collaboration with Robert Gipe and Theresa Osborne

2011

Commissioned to develop the third devised theater project in the Higher Ground series Talkin' Dirt, Parris-Bailey served as the lead playwright. The objective was to reveal the stories of residents in the coal communities of Benham, Lynch and Harlan, Kentucky. The piece focused on the forces that continue to hold young people in the community and the forces that continue to push them out, as well as the untold stories of the Affrilachian families and their struggles there. The project led by Robert Gipe at Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College (SKCTC) incorporated community workshops with members of the Carpetbag Theatre Ensemble, song development and a very inclusive cast from multiple counties in the area. With a cast of close to 75 performers, the work was remounted and performed for the New England Foundation for the Arts’ conference in Appalachia.

The Water Ritual

by Linda Parris-Bailey 

commissioned by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation

2010

The Water Ritual is a work performed with live actors, Digital Stories and audience interaction that takes the form of a dream journey. Designed as the culmination of a multi-year, Kellogg Foundation initiative, it raises questions about leadership, multi-issue action, and the barriers to working across state lines in rural communities. Digital Stories are used to share a collective view of the issues in the Southwest, Mid South, Great Plains and  an "At-Large" group. The actors follow the metaphor of the common river and the challenges that all face in making change. At the end of the performance, the audience provides information about "next steps" which are collected and shared with the group. This interactive performance successfully merges live action, digital media and audience participation into an evening of amazing theater!

Between A Ballad and A Blues

by Linda Parris-Bailey

Photography by Samiyyah Bailey

Photography by Samiyyah Bailey

Photography by Samiyyah Bailey

Photography by Samiyyah Bailey

2008

Between A Ballad and A Blues, a play with music from award winning playwright Linda Parris-Bailey, tells the story of African-American-Appalachian renaissance man Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, one of the most celebrated String-Band musicians in the history of American music. The play highlights Mr. Armstrong’s more than seven decade musical career. From his start in the industrial city of La Follette, he learned to sing in at least seven languages and began playing a homemade fiddle, performing with his siblings in the 1920’s. He went on to tour internationally and throughout the immigrant mining communities and metropolitan nightlife of the US with fellow musicians, Carl Martin and Ted Bogan. Mr. Armstrong continued to perform until his death in 2003, sharing string-band music with the world and planting the seeds for other American music forms including Country and Blues. The title of the play comes from Armstrong’s answer to playwright, Linda Parris-Bailey’s question: “How do you describe your music?” He responded, “It’s somewhere between a ballad and a blues.”  Armstrong’s remarkable ability to adapt and survive, good–natured ribbing, lively tales and energetic musical style come to life in this original work.

Another River Flows

by Linda Parris-Bailey

commissioned by Touchstone Theatre , Bethlehem, PA

2008

Using the metaphor of a small treasured box filled with history and lore from three African American communities in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, Another River Flows focuses on the stories of the valley’s struggle with land justice, removal and displacement, disappointment and destruction, fortitude and fight. The organizers and leaders in the movement for justice are honored thru storytelling and song. The inter-generational cast of characters share stories of survival and triumph. Written by playwright Linda Parris-Bailey as part of a multi-year research and story-gathering process, Another River Flows engaged multiple institutions, organizations and committed individuals to create the work. Directed by Mark McKenna with Touchstone Theater, with stories collected by storytelling guide Peggy Pettitt, and traditional and original songs gathered and arranged by vocalist-musicologist Dr. Ysaye Barnwell (of Sweet Honey In the Rock), the play toured to each of the participating communities and continues to exist In Touchstone’s archive.

SWOPERA (A Spoken Word Opera)

by Linda Parris-Bailey, Stephen Lynn "Seed" Heathcock, Carlton "S.T.A.R.R." Releford, Zakiyyah Modeste, Bert Tanner, Omar Abdel-Alim, Ajeet Kaur Khalsa & Joseph Woods

Photography by Melisa Cardona

Photography by Melisa Cardona

Photography by Melisa Cardona

Photography by Melisa Cardona

2001

SWOPERA: A Spoken Word Opera tells a contemporary story of gentrification, and one family’s efforts to save their business, Lowell’s Soul Food Cafe.  In the light of changing community dynamics, they find unexpected leadership in the youngest member of the family, Lem. The text is delivered in Spoken Word, poetry and rhyme accompanied by elements of Hip-Hop and Soul.

Nothin’ Nice

by Linda Parris-Bailey

commissioned by the Environmental Justice Festival, New Orleans, LA

1997

Nothin’ Nice, commissioned by Junebug Productions' Environmental Justice Festival, is the story of a young black man named Lonewolf, who is forced to confront issues of environmental injustice and its impact on his family and community. 
 
Lonewolf was raised in the “Lower Nine” or “Ninth Ward”, a New Orleans community devastated by pollution and toxicity. Throughout the play, Lonewolf faces the environment’s effects on the well-being of his two-year-old daughter (Kesha), the mother of his child (Nicole), and his cancer-stricken mother (Lil). With the guidance of his uncle (Victor), a former Civil Rights activist, he discovers his own ability to challenge his community to pursue social change. 
 
“I grew up in The Ninth Ward. I know what they put in the ground there. I know what they put in the river and in the Bayous and I know, like my grandma usta say, “Wadn’t nothin’ nice!” - Lil  

 Call Me By My Name

by Linda Parris-Bailey

a devised work for young people

1996

Call Me By My Name is a play for young audiences, developed during the CBT Summer Youth Workshop in Knoxville TN. Written by Linda Parris-Bailey the play tells the story of a group of High School students who are marginalized by their instructors and demand the same respect and individualized attention that they are required to give. Call Me By My Name holds adults accountable for learning who these young people are as individuals and challenges them to look as ageism as another "ism" to eliminate.

Ce Nitram Sacul

by Linda Parris-Bailey

Talk Back with Ce Nitram Cast and Director Ebony Noelle Golden

1993

Ce Nitram Sacul is the story of a woman in crisis. Disturbed by the violence and insensitivity around her, she turns to her “Womantor”, her “touchstone”, for advice. The unusual circumstance, which provides both tension and humor is the fact that the “Womantor” has been dead for more than twelve years. The play, a modern theater ritual rich in music and language, is both a celebration and a call to action. This contemporary “Praise Poem” to the women who mentor us, is grounded in the idea that the greatest tribute is action carried forth.

“I resurrect you because I need to pay tribute. I want to sing you a praise poem! It’s time to celebrate you...and go mad with rejoicing that you were here!”

— ROSE, CE NITRAM SACUL

CURIOUS ABOUT THE TITLE? HERE'S THE STORY:
“Ce Nitram Sacul“ is an ananym of “Ce” Martin Lucas (Cleopatra Martin Lucas). In 1970, Cleopatra Martin Lucas and her husband, Wilmer Lucas, chartered the Carpetbag Theatre, Inc during the American Civil Rights movement in an effort to reclaim the hidden stories of African Americans and empower its communities through music and theatre. Today, Carpetbag Theatre, Inc. stands as one of the oldest running African American theaters in the nation. Ce Nitram Sacul is a praise poem play written in honor of Cleopatra Martin Lucas’ legacy.

Blacks in a Company Town

By Linda Parris-Bailey

1991

The legendary Alcoa Aluminum Company in Alcoa Tennessee built a “Company Town” much like the coal companies serving the region. By recruiting Black workers from the deep south, Alcoa built a fortune on the backs of those Black workers. Parris-Bailey was commissioned by the communities of Maryville and Alcoa to tell the stories  of these segregated townships operated by the company. The play is a tribute to those workers and to the community that collected their stories, archiving them at Berea College. The script is housed at Maryville College.

Dark Cowgirls and Prairie Queens

By Linda Parris-Bailey

1983

Dark Cowgirls and Prairie Queens is the story of a little known facet of American History. Filled with vivid images, captivating stories and harmonious song, “Cowgirls" brings to life seven of the most colorful Black women to emerge from the American West. The play is an imaginative dramatization of the lives of Mary Fields (Black Mary), Biddy Mason (Grandma Mason), sculptress Edmonia Lewis (Little Wildfire), Mary Ellen Pleasant ("Mammy Pleasant" of underground railroad fame), and Julia Boulette (fondly remembered as the Queen of Virginia City).

Cric? Crac!

by Linda Parris-Bailey 

1980

This collection of Black folktales from Haiti, Senegal and the Southern United States, is performed in the delightful spirit of Story Theater. CRIC? CRAC! emphasizes the recurring themes in Black Folk Literature around the world. As African peoples were dispersed the world over, they took with them their customs, their language and their ancestral traditions. They responded in diverse and unique ways to their new environments, creating new traditions that were rooted in their cultural heritage and adapted to their new ways of living and working. The title refers to the traditional Haitian prologue to storytelling. 

Circus Maxim 
By Linda Parris-Bailey in collaboration with writer David Fuller

1976

Circus Maxim, conceived by Linda Parris-Bailey and co-written with David Fuller, is a political satire that describes the experience of Africans in America as a circus, complete with “Prancing Show Horses”, “Lion Tamers” and its own brand of "Side Show Oddities". The parallels between the auction block and the raised side show stage, the dancing horses and the minstrel shows, the caged cats and our imprisoned youth are all on display and those in positions of power are fully revealed as the “Ringmaster”.

 

Publications

Monologues for Actors of Color

Edited by Roberta Uno

Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (May 27, 2016)

Performing Communities

By Robert H. Leonard  (Author), Ann Kilkelly (Author), Linda Frye Burnham (Editor), Jan Cohen-Cruz (Introduction)Publisher: New Village Press (April 1, 2006)

Women in American Theater

Edited by Helen Krich Chinoy and Linda Walsh Jenkins
Publisher: Theatre Communications Group; Revised, Expanded edition (May 1, 2005)

Ensemble Works

Edited by Ferdinand Lewis

Publisher: Theatre Communications Group (June 1, 2005)

Breathing the Same Air

By Doris and Leslie M. Lachance (editors) Ivie (Author)
Publisher: Celtic Cat Publishing; 1st Paperback Edition edition (2001)

Alternate Roots: Plays from the Southern Theater

Edited by Kathie DeNobriga
Publisher: Heinemann Drama (April 18, 1994)