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“Flyin’ West” flies to ORU stage

ORU students Jada Wise, Mia Jarmond and Elle Cunningham perform Act 1 of “Flyin’ West” at an early dress rehearsal. Director Britney Daniels will continue to host a pre-show Q&A at 6:45 p.m. every performance night.

Sitting back from her computer, Oral Roberts University 2013 graduate Britney Daniels reflected on how quickly the audition process had gone. In the span of three days, she conducted virtual interviews, completed callbacks and now, on day three, was getting ready for the first rehearsal. 


Just as Daniels was preparing to direct her first collegiate play while working virtually for her professional role at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Missouri. ORU Theatre presents “Flyin West,” by playwright Pearl Cleage, this week at Howard Auditorium. 


Telling stories of Black Americans in the late 1800s, “Flyin’ West” is the first show in ORU history to have an all-Black cast.


“I’ve never seen anything like this on this stage, which is wonderful, and I’m glad that we’re telling stories that are stories for all people,” Daniels said. “It is something that’s very important.”


Although the first of its kind at ORU, it should not be discounted for being “the all-Black play,” the director said.


“Why can’t it just be a story of humans and these humans just so happened to be Black?” Daniels said. “We all have different histories and different ways that we deal with this history, but there are topics in this show that all struggle with.”


After the Homestead Act of 1862, people of any race were strongly incentivized to settle in western states. Many of these people were Black Americans and former slaves seeking to escape the Jim Crow South.


 The play follows a group of Black women who took up the mantle to move west and deal with the heavy topics of ethnic pride, safety, freedom and love. 


“We’re talking about certain violence that happens in this play that is triggering and some things that I have experienced, things that people in the cast have experienced and we live with that,” Daniels said. “And there are moments where after rehearsal, it is heavy taking this home, but the reward is we’re telling the story because it’s a story that needs to be told and it needs to be heard.”


Although the play targets events of the past it is still applicable to the emotions of the present. Often the director and the cast were transported to moments in their own lives and homes. 


“In the show, there are these conversations and it’s crazy that they’re happening at this dinner table and the same thing happens at our dinner tables at home,” Daniels said. “It’s like theater is like a mirror to humanity. Yes, this happened in 1890 but we are still living in this in 2023.”


For senior acting major Jada Wise, the emotions she felt through her character Sophie deeply resonated with her real life. 


“This play has hit home in terms of protecting my family,” said Wise. “As I moved through Sophie’s story, I’ve experienced the stakes of nearly losing a sister and being pulled in every direction emotionally. In my personal life, I have two sisters who are near to me, and which I would protect with my whole being.”


Throughout the play the themes of race, freedom, resilience and strength are evident, but there is a theme the cast and director feel needs to be emphasized to all.


“No matter color, race, ethnicity, or gender, background, or past, human beings were meant to be together,” Wise said. “This story highlights the value of simply being a free human being.” 


For all coming to the show, “Come in with an open mind and remember that this is a sliver of history that is not told in the history books,” Daniels concluded.


ORU’s production of “Flyin’ West” at Howard Auditorium will continue through Sept.  24. The remaining show times are 7:30 p.m. Sept. 22-23 and at 2 p.m. Sept. 24. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $5 for children and first-year students get in free.

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McKenna Lewis
McKenna Lewis, Staff Writer
I am a double major in Public Relations and Advertising and Graphic Design. I love using writing and art to empower and educate. Other loves include board games, coffee and my cat.

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