The Plays

Mike Wiley Productions’ newest work commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders. In 1961, the original 13 riders boarded a bus in Washington, DC bound for New Orleans via Mississippi and Alabama. They barely made it out of Alabama alive. Over the course of the next three months, approximately 300 other riders took up the mantle and followed the path of those first brave few. Mobs brutally assaulted many. Others were arrested and, instead of posting bail, chose to serve sentences in one of the most brutal prisons in the South, Parchman Farm, proving the Freedom Riders and the movement to desegregate interstate travel would not be deterred.

Presented in the style of the variety shows of yesteryear, this moving 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.

“Did you know that at Parchman, to pass the time and to keep our spirits up, we ‘invented’ a radio program? I don’t recall that we named it, but ‘The Parchman Hour’ would have been a good name. Each cell had to contribute a short “act” (singing a song, telling a joke, reading from the Bible -- the only book we were allowed) and in between acts we had ‘commercials’ for the products we lived with every day, like the prison soap, the black-and-white striped skirts, the awful food, etc. We did this every evening, as I recall; it gave us something to do during the day, thinking up our cell’s act for the evening.” — Mimi Real, Freedom Rider, 1961

Originally produced by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the Department of Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Parchman Hour is a celebration of bravery and a call to action through remembrance, leaving the audience asking, “Who stood up for me? Moreover, for whom can I stand up for today? Who needs my words, my song, my voice?”

Production is 90 minutes in length and appropriate for a mixed audience.
There is also a 50 minute student version
for grades 6 and higher.

Downloads Review


Documentary :: Parchman Hour :: Mississippi from Aravind DP on Vimeo.


The Parchman Hour :: Mike Wiley - Jessie Harris