Hailey Kilgore, Tichina Arnold, J. Bernard Calloway, More Cast in The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 | Playbill

Regional News Hailey Kilgore, Tichina Arnold, J. Bernard Calloway, More Cast in The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963
The Kennedy Center commission will begin performances March 15 in the Eisenhower Theater.
Hailey Kilgore Marc J. Franklin

The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, a Kennedy Center commission adapted by Christina Ham from Christopher Paul Curtis’ Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award–winning book, will play a limited engagement in the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater March 15–24.

Presented in a staged concert adaptation with live music, the piece will feature Tony nominee Hailey Kilgore (Once on This Island) as Joetta “Joey” Watson, Tichina Arnold (Everybody Hates Chris) as Wilona Watson, J. Bernard Calloway (Memphis) as Daniel Watson, Chad Coleman (The Wire) as Narrator Kenny and Other Broadcast Voices, Dante Myles Hoagland (The Last O.G.) as Kenneth “Kenny” Bernard Watson, Isabell Monk O’Connor (The Gospel at Colonus) as Grandma Sands, Nova Y. Payton (the Kennedy Center’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) as The Voice, and Justin Weaks (the Kennedy Center’s Long Way Down) as Byron Watson.


The Watsons Go to Birmingham tells the tale of the Watson family of Flint, Michigan, and their bond and endurance amidst one of the darkest periods in America’s history. When Byron can’t stay out of trouble, the whole family drives south to visit Grandma Sands for the summer, experiencing a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement along the way.

Directed by Faye M. Price, the production, recommended for ages nine and up, features music by the late Darius Smith, who completed the bulk of the score shortly before his passing. The show is presented as a part of the Kennedy Center’s season–long exploration of The Human Journey, which seeks to promote deeper understanding of the migration of people and the resilience of humankind to overcome conflict, adversity, prejudice, and injustices.

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