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The Catalyst Sessions: L. Peter Callender and Sheila Cowley

Bill DeYoung



“I don’t ever want to write a play that only white people can be in,” Sheila Cowley said Thursday on The Catalyst Sessions, explaining why she insisted on a BIPOC cast for the Tampa Repertory Theatre’s virtual production of her drama Flying.

Casting people of color in the play, Cowley explained, was one of her conditions for letting Flying, which Tampa Rep performed in 2017, fly again. “I said I wouldn’t be interested in doing it any other way. Because, why not? If you’re gonna do it, let’s use this new medium to do something different.”

Flying is about a group of tough women airplane pilots who flew non-combat missions during World War II. And although the majority of them were white, historical accuracy isn’t nearly the point of Cowley’s story.

“It doesn’t come off as black, it doesn’t come off as white, it doesn’t come off as Latino, it’s this lyrical story,” said director L. Peter Callender. “And the way I want to approach it is not from ‘Oh, Black women were not part of this organization at that particular time’ … I want to approach this play as an American play. An American story.

“A play about women who are brave, who are heroic, who have taken on this task to help the American effort to in World War II.”

Flying is presented at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 16. Tickets are available here.


Today on The Catalyst Sessions: New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly on his contribution to Tampa Bay Noir, and more.

Streaming at 7 p.m. weekdays on the Catalyst Facebook page. All episodes are archived on our YouTube page.


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