Playwright Mike Wiley Visits Hart Class “Plays that Change the World”
This fall, the Hart Leadership Program course “Plays that Change the World,” taught by Prof. Faulkner Fox, is focusing on the impact of plays on the cultures they are produced within. Students examine contemporary and traditional plays which have had marked impacts on their societies or which address topical social issues. Students also craft their own script over the course of the semester, focusing on how best to convey their beliefs and passions.
Recently, North Carolina-based actor, director, and playwright Mike Wiley paid a visit to the class via Zoom to discuss his play The Parchman Hour, originally produced in collaboration with another Duke class. Wiley’s work explores the lives of various figures in African American history such as Emmett Till, Henry “Box” Brown, Jackie Robinson, and more in order to educate communities about these monumental figures, many times through the medium of a one-man show where Wiley portrays a wide range of characters. Wiley received his MFA from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill where he earned the Distinguished Alumni Award. Both Wiley’s writing and acting have been commended in the past as he quite literally carries the show in his many one-man productions. Reviews of Wiley’s work commend him for his ability to bring engaging performances on stage while informing and challenging the public; an IndyWeek review for The Parchman Hour stated, “Wiley’s new work is a strong—actually, make that necessary—reminder, not only of the starkest realities of the segregated South, but of the astounding resilience of those who chose to stand against it.”
During Wiley’s visit, students listened to the playwright discuss his process and asked questions about how to improve their own works. Wiley listened to students discuss the subject matter of their various plays and gave advice ranging from improving the verisimilitude of dialogue to creating large theatrical spectacle. Wiley was able to provide the perspective of a contemporary working playwright, actor, and director to give sage advice about the process of developing a script and collaborating with others to perform. Wiley has a number of student and public performances upcoming, which are visible at his website www.mikewileyproductions.com.