Directed by Layon Gray, performed by The Layon Gray American Theatre Company, Hanesbrands Theatre

Tickets and showtimes can be found here.

Bass Reeves arrested more than 3,000 criminals in his time as the first black deputy US Marshal during the late 19th Century, according to biographer Art. T Burton. Playwright and director Layon Gray plays Reeves’ in his play Cowboy, which makes its world premiere at the festival this year.

“I love telling stories that people don’t know about, especially about the African-American experience,” said Gray. “In researching another project, I stumbled upon Reeves. I knew that I wanted to put him in a story and with this festival coming up I knew it would be great timing.”

Reeves’ jurisdiction included modern-day Oklahoma and Arkansas, then known as Indian Territory. There’s no outstanding evidence that the creators of the hit fifties TV show, “The Lone Ranger,” found inspiration in Reeves, however, Burton writes in his book, Black Gun, Silver Star, that “Reeves is the closest real person to resemble the fictional Lone Ranger on the American western frontier of the nineteenth century.”

“America was different [in the fifties] and a lot of black stories were twisted,” said Gray.

Historical whitewashing of “The Lone Ranger” and other fictional cowboy heroes set a certain image in the minds of Americans on what a cowboy was. The release of Gray’s play is a step towards revising that image to create a more accurate representation of that time.

Many of history’s greatest figures get pushed to the side, Reeves is just one of them. Gray doesn’t want that to be the case for Reeves, though. He believes that through the gripping, immersive nature of theater, he can effectively relate the story about one of the most accomplished lawmen in American history.

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