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Black airmen fight for freedom and civil rights in the powerful play 'Fly'

 See the heroism of this high-flying group in 'Fly' at Ford's Theatre in Washington.
Scott Suchman
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Date published: 10/4/2012


More than half of the play's 90 minutes focus on the men's training. With no more than eight standard government metal chairs and four footlockers to set the stage, the men fight, study and fly--chairs tilted back as they climb into the air, bodies weaving as they dip and turn, bent forward as they come back to earth.

Adding to the effect are Clint Allen's projection designs lighting seven screens around the stage with swirling clouds, distant farmland far below, the red glare of airplanes hit by gunfire.

The men--most of them--do get to Europe, where their P-51 Mustangs protect the lumbering bombers from Luftwaffe fighters. Khan and Ellis make the point that the bomber pilots felt safer with the Tuskegee Airmen, requesting their escort over others.

The playwrights make note of some of the recognition given the courage and heroism of the Tuskegee Airmen, starting the play with the 2007 gathering on the steps of the Capitol where the group received the Congressional Gold Medal. It ends with Simpkins as an honored guest at President Obama's 2009 inauguration.

Ford's Theatre is offering "Fly" as part of its Lincoln Legacy Project, designed to promote dialogue about tolerance and equality. The play certainly illustrates a major step forward in civil rights.

Lucia Anderson is a writer in Woodbridge.

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What: "Fly" Where: Ford's Theatre, 511 10th St. NW, Washington When: Through Oct. 21 Cost: $28-$62 Info: 800/982-2787; fords.org