Virginia Stage Company to Continue 39th Season with 'THE PARCHMAN HOUR'

Virginia Stage Company to Continue 39th Season with 'THE PARCHMAN HOUR'

Virginia Stage Company continues its 39th Season with The Parchman Hour: Songs and Stories of the '61 Freedom Riders. Co-produced with Norfolk State University Theatre Company, 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.

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 injustice," says Tom Quaintance, Producing Artistic Director of Virginia Stage Company. "In the wake of the events in Charlottesville, people all over the country are asking, 'What is going on in Virginia?'" Through song and storytelling, The Parchman Hour shadows our country's past while sparking conversation about the present.

The Parchman Hour has performances starting Wednesday, October 25 for three nights of previews with opening night on Saturday, October 28, and runs for three weeks, concluding November 12. Tickets range from $20 - $55 with special discounts for military, students, and groups.

A Video Preview of the cast rehearsing "On My Way" is available at

Talk Backs and Community Conversation will follow the Sunday matinee performances on October 29 and November 5 as well as in the community in partnership with other local organizations. Keep up with the happenings at

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

Memberships are still available for the full season with prices ranging from $99 - $299.

Virginia Stage Company is southeastern Virginia's leading theatre destination, serving an audience of over 70,000 annually both at the Wells Theatre and throughout the community. 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 (Writer and Director) Acclaimed actor and playwright Mike Wiley has spent the last decade fulfilling his mission to bring educational theatre to young audiences and communities across the country. In the early days of his career, Wiley found few theatrical resources to shine a light on key events and figures in African-American history. To bring these stories to life, he started his own Production Company.

Through his performances, Wiley has introduced countless students and communities to the legacies of Emmett Till, Henry "Box" Brown and more. His recent works include a one-man play based on Tim Tyson's memoir Blood Done Sign My Name and The Parchman Hour, an ensemble production celebrating the bravery and determination of the Freedom Riders who risked their lives to desegregate Southern interstate bus travel in 1961.

Mike Wiley has a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is the 2010 and 2014 Lehman Brady Visiting Joint Chair Professor in Documentary Studies and American Studies at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to his numerous school and community performances, he has also appeared on Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and National Geographic Channel and has been featured in Our State magazine and on PBS' North Carolina Now and WUNC's The State of Things.

Additional team members include:

Musical Director/Conductor: Roy George

Choreographer: Aya Shabu

Scenic Designer: Dave Griffie

Costume Designer: Grier Coleman

Lighting Designer: David Castaneda

Sound Designer: Michael Boso

Projections Designer: David Rawlins

Fight Director: Benjamin Curns

Assistant Choreographer: Robert Garris

Assistant Choreographer: Zipporah Gatling

Dee Dee Batteast (Pearl/L. Collins) is currently a Chicago based actress, director and teacher. She is a proud alumnus of Ball State's undergraduate program (07'). After the completing her undergraduate degree, Dee Dee relocated to New York where she lived and worked as an actress, activist and youth advocate. While in the city she volunteered at Girl Be Heard: a non-for profit theatre company dedicated to social justice and issues affecting young women. She enjoys spending her summers working with Hidden Voices and the Blue Ribbon mentor group in North Carolina. Dee Dee received her MFA in acting from UNC-Chapel Hill where she spent 3 years as a company member at PlayMakers Repertory Theatre. Some of her favorite roles at PlayMakers include Elizabeth In The Next Room, Ruth A Raisin in the Sun, and Montjoy Henry VI. She has a great love of storytelling and teaching others to tell stories. She is also a writer and activist who believes that art has the power to change the world- because it has the power to change the conversations that shape the world.

John Cauthen (Guards/Clansmen) is proud and honored to be a part of The Parchman Hour. John last performed as Prospero in Jamestown Settlement's production of The Tempest. Previous VSC appearances include All My Sons and A Moon for The Misbegotten. John thanks his beautiful wife Dana for her constant love and support.

Jonathan Cooper (Freddie) is a senior Theatre Performance student at Norfolk State University from Norfolk, Virginia. He has previously appeared in Virginia Stage Company productions such as The Wiz and A Raisin in the Sun; as well as the Norfolk State University Theatre Company production of Ruined. Other credits include Rent, Detroit 67' and Black Nativity.

Benjamin Curns (Forsythe) makes his debut Virginia Stage Company with The Parchman Hour. Ben has an MFA in Acting: UNC Chapel Hill; BA in History: SUNY Cortland. New York Stage: American Globe Theatre, Roust Theatre Company, ShakespeareNYC, Inwood Shakespeare Festival, Theatre-Studio Inc., Strawberry Festival of New Plays, The Fall Collection. Regional Stage: PlayMakers Repertory Company, Hampstead Stage Company, Cortland Repertory Theatre and 16 seasons with the American Shakespeare Center including the title roles in Richard III, Hamlet Q1, Macbeth, Henry VIII, and Julius Caesar. Film/TV: Batman: Master of Fear (Red Fist Productions), The Jew of Malta, The Summoning of Everyman (Grandfather Films) Awards: David A. Hammond Award for Excellence in Dramatic Art (UNC Chapel Hill), Best Scene, Intern's Award, and The David Boushey Founder's Award for Excellence in Unarmed Combat (2016 National Stage Combat Workshop) #1 "Shakespeareance" for Richard III at American Shakespeare Center ( More at

Samantha Fabiani (Mama/J.T. Mulholland): This is Samantha's VSC debut and she could not be more thrilled to have the opportunity to work on The Parchman Hour for the second time. In 2013, she had the wonderful experience of portraying Joan in Parchman at Cape Fear Regional Theatre in North Carolina with Mike Wiley and Tom Quaintance. She has worked with Missoula Children's Theatre as a touring Actor/Director for 3 years and had the chance to visit 38 states as well as Guam and Japan. Previous roles/shows include Betty Jean in the Marvelous Wonderettes, Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar, Paulette in Legally Blonde, Gulliver's Travels, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Peter and Wendy, The Frog Prince and Rapunzel.

Daniel S. Hines (Elwood/S. Green) hails from just across the water in Yorktown, VA, and is happy to be back in the Old Dominion bringing this important material to life. After graduating from York High School and the York County School of Fine Arts, Daniel spent a decade and a half bouncing around the country telling people's stories. Some favorite past credits include: Memphis (national tour), Macbeth (Sierra Rep), Ragtime (Theatre Latté Da), five different productions of Oklahoma!, and The Crucible which first whet Daniel's appetite for theatre right here in the Commonwealth. "Thanks to God and Family for endless Love and support, and thank you for supporting live theater. Now sit up and listen!"

Teddy Holmes (James Farmer) is a native of Calvary, GA. Also the youngest of 10 children, he is a graduate of Albany State University where he received his B.A. in Speech & Theatre and Regent University where he received his M.F.A. in Acting. Holmes is elated to be gracing the Wells Theatre stage for the first time, in his very first performance with Virginia Stage Company. Some favorite past roles include Lazar Wolf (Fiddler on the Roof), Street Preacher (Everywoman), and Tom (The Glass Menagerie). A budding storyteller with his "mind stayed on freedom," Holmes is a poet with a heart to see his generation impacted through story. "My mission is to inspire revolution and be an authentic voice of truth for this generation. Through the vehicle of storytelling, I seek to battle for peace and spiritual reformation in a wayward society. And far more than my own notoriety, it is my utmost desire to deliver hope to a downcast world."

Indya Jackson (Jean Thompson) is a senior Theatre Performance student at Norfolk State University from Chesapeake, Virginia. She has previously appeared in the Virginia Stage Company production of A Christmas Carol and the Norfolk State University Theatre Company productions of For Colored Girls..., A Musical Tribute to Luther Vandross, A Musical Tribute to Whitney Houston, No Child..., A Raisin in the Sun and Ruined.

James Keesler (Guards/Clansman) makes his VSC/Wells Theater debut. James is a local professional working actor and musician. He has performed on many of the stages in the area, most recently in VMT's production of Hello, Dolly! and Generic Theater's record breaking production of Heathers, the Musical. Regional theater credits include Peter Pan, Gypsy (VMT), Parade, Light in the Piazza (LTVB), Big River, and Into the Woods (Theatrix). James wants to thank his wife Jennifer for her continued love and support. Enjoy the HOUR.

Christopher Lindsay (Stokely Carmichael) is an alumni of Norfolk State University with a Bachelor's in Theatre Performance. Originally from from Brooklyn, New York; He has previously appeared in the Virginia Stage Company productions of The Tempest and A Christmas Carol and the Norfolk State University Theatre Company productions of The Brothers Size, A Raisin in the Sun, Dreamgirls, Black Nativity, The Road Less Traveled and Ruined. He is the recipient of the 2016 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival's Distinguished Performance by an Actor in a Play.

Phillip Martin (Deputy Tyson) is pleased to be returning to the Wells stage in such an important and powerful show. Past productions include, Virginia Stage Company's A Streetcar Named Desire, ODU Rep's Titus Andronicus, Memorials to the Missing, and Into the Woods. Shakespeare is his first love, having grown up in the shadow of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon.

Jeremy Morris (John Lewis) is thrilled to be working with Virginia Stage Company for the first time! He most recently portrayed the iconic Vaudeville star Bert Williams in the original work The Top of Bravery, (RTCC nominee: Best Actor) which he also wrote. Favorite roles include Lymon in The Piano Lesson, Oshoosi Size in The Brothers Size, Shadow Tom in Uncle Tom: deconstructed, and Laertes in Hamlet.

Meredith Noel (Mimi Real) is an alumna of Norfolk State University where she majored in English and Theatre Performance. She is originally from Baltimore, Maryland. She has previously appeared in the Virginia Stage Company productions of The Hampton Years, Oliver Twist and The Wiz as well as the Norfolk State University Theatre Company productions of Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill, A Raisin in the Sun, Dreamgirls, Langston Hughes' Black Nativity, A Musical Tribute to Whitney Houston, For Colored Girls and Ruined. She is the recipient of the NSU Theatre Company 2015 Best Supporting Actress in a Play and 2016 Best Supporting Actress in a Musical awards.

Wallis Quaintance (Carol Silver) is thrilled to be making her VSC debut. Prior to moving to Norfolk, she appeared at Cape Fear Regional Theatre in the world premiere of Downrange: Voices From the Homefront (also by Mike Wiley), along with Henry V, The Parchman Hour and Around the World in 80 Days. Other productions include Macbeth, As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Trojan Women, Six Characters in Search of an Author, Blood Wedding, The Serpent, and The Astonished Heart. She received her B.F.A. from NYU and The Atlantic Theatre Company. She dedicates this performance to all those who stand up to injustice.

Isaiah Roper (Hank Thomas) is a recent alumni of Norfolk State University with a Bachelor's in Music Media. Originally from Red Springs, North Carolina; He has previously appeared in the Norfolk State University Theatre Company productions of Choir Boy, Ruined, No Child..., A Musical Tribute to Luther Vandross, Dreamgirls and Black Nativity. He is the recipient of the 2016 NSU Theatre Company Best Supporting Actor in a Musical award.

Anthony Stockard (Pee Wee) is excited to return to VSC after appearing in The Wiz as Uncle Henry, I Sing the Rising Sea as Langston Hughes, The Tempest as King Alonzo and last year's A Christmas Carol as Jacob Marley. His most recent credits include TV/Film: Surrogates (with Bruce Willis) Off-Broadway: Old Comedy... at Classic Stage Company; Regional: No Child... (Connecticut Critics Circle Award Winner) at Hartford Theatreworks; Intimate Apparel at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theatre; The Three Musketeers at Double Edge Theatre Company; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and A Christmas Carol at Berkshire Theater Festival; The Taming of the Shrew, Coriolanus, Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Four Spirits at Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Anthony Holds a B.A. in Theater Arts from Alabama State University and an M.F.A. in Theatre Arts from Brandeis University. He proudly serves as the Director of Virginia's most nationally recognized collegiate theatre program of the year, Norfolk State University's Division of Drama.

Ja'Keetrius Woods (Pauline Knight) is a junior majoring in Theater at Norfolk State University. She is originally from Mobile, Alabama but she currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. This is her third production with the Virginia Stage Company. She was previously part of the company's production of A Christmas Carol in 2016 as a townsperson. She was also part of the co-production of The Wiz between Virginia Stage Company and the Norfolk State University Theatre company as YBR (yellow brick road) and Dorothy's understudy. Ja'Keetrius is very excited to be working with Virginia Stage Company again.

Also featuring Paul Lasakow and Reed Miller.

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