Pearl Cleage: Blues for An Alabama Sky

Blues for an Alabama Sky by Pearl Cleage, Guthrie Program Cover

“We sit in the dark around the campfire and we listen to someone tell us the stories of our tribe, and we’ve been doing that as humans forever…

And you can call it theater, call it film, call it whatever. We have to, there’s no other way to know what’s important, what’s beautiful, what’s courageous, what’s brave, what’s all of those things, except through the stories that we tell about each other.”

Pearl Cleage


Episode 69 – Pearl Cleage, Blues for an Alabama Sky

In this episode Lissa talks with playwright and author Pearl Cleage about Blues for an Alabama Sky, her current work and references to inspirations and influencers including Langston Hughes, Stacey Abrams, Ntozake Shange, Viola Davis, audience development and more.


Blues for an Alabama Sky is on stage at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis through March 12, 2023


“The story is set in 1930, but it isn’t about 1930. It’s about truth and honor and love and fear and friendship, topics which don’t grow old. Writers are always writing about the complexities of being human. Time and place are merely the specific backdrops in which we chose to place our explorations. If we get it right about the people, the question of relevance is moot.”

Pearl Cleage


‘We Are Being Beaten’ : Turning Up the Volume on Painful Issues, Pearl Cleage Pushes Women to Stop Racism, Sexism (Los Angeles Times)

Award-Winning Author Pearl Cleage Creates Legacy of Literary Excellence (Spellman College: Our Stories)

Weary Blues by Langston Hughes. Langston is referenced frequently in Blues for an Alabama Sky. In this episode, Lissa includes a 1958 recording of Langston Hughes reciting Weary Blues with jazz accompaniment. Read the text here.

The Many Visions of Lorraine Hansberry (New Yorker) FAIR FIGHT, Stacey Abrams – In their BMR conversation Lissa and Pearl talk about influencers, including Lorraine Hansberry and Stacey Abrams.

Josephine Baker: Harlem Renaisance Creative

In Blues for an Alabama Sky a large portrait of Josephine Baker hangs center stage, inspiration for the character of costume designer Guy, and his ticket to freedom.


Pearl Cleage  is an African-American playwright, essayist, novelist, poet and political activist. She is currently the Playwright in Residence at the Alliance Theatre and at the Just Us Theater Company. Cleage is a political activist. She tackles issues at the crux of racism and sexism, and is known for her feminist views, particularly regarding her identity as an African-American woman.

Books and Plays by Pearl Cleage.


Finding Me: A Memoir, by Viola Davis

“I did not think it was going to move me the way that it has. It is just an amazing book about an artist’s journey about a black woman surviving, it’s a wonderful book. “

Pearl Cleage

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Lissa and Pearl recording this episode of Black Market Reads in studio at Artwork courtesy of Tacoumba T. Aiken.

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