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Event Calendar

Pullman Porter Blues

NOV 23, 2012 – JAN 6, 2013

by Cheryl L. West
directed by Lisa Peterson

a co-production with Seattle Repertory Theatre

in the Kreeger Theater

Blues-Fueled Locomotive

“Sounds like a story pullin’ out of the station.”

Jam-packed with 12 classic blues songs, including “Sweet Home Chicago,” Pullman Porter Blues is the world-premiere production that reveals the true heroes hidden within every man. It’s June 1937 and the Panama Limited, bound from Chicago to New Orleans, is bouncing to the beat of the rollicking Midwest blues. Most folks are tuned in to the Joe Louis/James Braddock championship bout, but the men of the Sykes family – three generations of porters – know there’s more at stake than just a boxing title, as they battle each other, racial tensions and an uncertain future. Will the hope they get from the Brown Bomber be the fuel this family needs to make a better life or will progress tear them apart?

Pullman Porter Blues runs approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one intermission.

Pullman Porter Blues is sponsored by GEICO

Amtrakis the official railway of Arena Stage

“Bursting with talent.”

“It’s impossible to tear your eyes away from E. Faye Butler.”
“[E. Faye] Butler is fearless and fascinating as Juba.”


“[Larry] Marshall, [Cleavant] Derricks and [Warner] Miller are excellent.”
“[E. Faye] Butler … outdoes herself in this show, proving not only her outstanding vocal skills but also her comic skills.”Washington Examiner

“[Larry] Marshall and [Cleavant] Derricks have … elegant dancing skills
and impassioned singing voices while projecting genuine stage magnetism.”Talkin' Broadway

“Emotionally charged.”
“[E. Faye] Butler is a larger than life crowd pleaser
and delivers moments of priceless entertainment.”DC Theatre Scene

“A glorious ride.”
“The radiant, show-stealing E. Faye Butler.”DCist

“Totally satisfies … This play delivers tenfold.”
“Fantastic … Funny and touching.”
“Knockout vocal stylings of E. Faye Butler … a force of nature …
holds the audience in the palm of her hand.”
“It takes real talent to play a character like this and Ziman possesses
all the right gifts and skills.”Maryland Theatre Guide

“Lively entertaining spectacle that illuminates
an important piece of history.”
“The music is smoking.”
“E. Faye Butler … is absolutely marvelous …
she has us wrapped around her finger.”Woman Around Town

“[Warner] Miller, [Cleavant] Derricks, and [Larry] Marshall
give extraordinarily layered performances.”
“The standout, tour-de-force performance … belongs to E. Faye Butler.”
“Emily Chisolm … perfectly balances comedy with drama.”DC Metro Theater Arts

“A great ride … Makes its excellence known
before you can even put your suitcase down.”

“A beautiful play … Sublime.”

“A joyful connection between actors and audience.
There will be smiles during this ride. Often.”


“The always brilliant E. Faye Butler.”

“Ms. Butler has the audience in stitches, as always,
in complete command of the stage.”Examiner

American Voices

Cheryl L. West

“My first train ride at the age of five was both exhilarating and fascinating. I remember being utterly enamored with the train’s compulsively smiling Pullman porters. With the naiveté of the innocent, I remember concluding that the porters must smile all the time because they were so happy to ride the train all day, every day. Little did I know that the effusive smiling was one of many rules and that, in order to receive full pay, the ever-smiling Porters were required to work 400 hours per month or 11,000 miles—whichever occurred first— sometimes standing 20 hours straight while being humiliated similarly as they were on a slave plantation.

And yet they persevered and became the first organized black labor union, a feat that cost many of them their jobs and their lives. Now, decades later, I have the incredible opportunity to explore the world
behind the smiles and, with the Sykes men as guides, to recapture
that fascination.”

— Cheryl L. West, playwright

“A fearless, compassionate dramatist.”

Seattle Times



Pullman Porter Proclamation