Cheryl Collins, director of theatre at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, will present, “If I’m Lyin’, I’m Flyin’: The Story of Queen Bess,” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the John M. Ross Theatre of the Hathaway Howard Fine Arts Center.
The play, written by Collins, with her son and collaborator, Stephan Collins-Stepney, is a fundraiser for the theatre department as they endeavor to compete in Baltimore, Md., at the 76th Annual National Association of Dramatic and Speech Arts competition, where UAPB’s theatre students won first place at the competition last year.
Queen Bess is the story of 1920’s aviator Bessie Coleman, who, born to sharecroppers in 1890s Texas, fought the poverty, race and gender issues of the day. She went on to become one of the celebrated Americans of her time — even earning a feature on a 1995 U.S. postage stamp. Collins was attracted to Coleman because of her tenacity and inability to take no for an answer.
“Here’s a woman who flew four years before Amelia Earhart,” said Collins. “She had no resources. No American pilot would take her on as a student so she saved her money and flew to France to learn. She barnstormed across the nation in whatever she could beg, borrow or buy. She tried to represent her people with intelligence and dignity and I am in awe of her.”
Also, as part of the evenings’ entertainment, Collins-Stepney will perform his stirring one man show “B.A.D. (Black and Defiant)”, which chronicles the lives of boxer, Jack Johnson; cowboy, Bill Pickett; entertainer, Bert Williams; and actor/activist, Paul Robeson.
Both performances will be recorded by UAPB-TV for consideration to showcase in August 2013 at The National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Tickets are $20 and are limited. For more information, please call 870-575-8428.