Blueprints to Freedom: An Ode to Bayard Rustin

Michael Benjamin Washington
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Winner Edgerton Foundation: Outstanding New American Play
Winner San Diego Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Play


In the political and racial upheaval of 1963, Bayard Rustin — the brilliant proponent of nonviolent civil resistance — is pushed to orchestrate an unprecedented march on Washington D.C. for jobs and freedom. Exiled from the Civil Rights movement by both internal and external forces, Rustin grapples with his last chance for professional restoration and spiritual redemption as he masterminds “a tribute to the ancestors.”

Production Info

Cast: 5 total (1 female, 4 male, bit parts: a chorus of ancestors)
Full Length Drama (about 100 minutes)
Multiple Sets
Period Costumes

Press Quotes

“In Michael Benjamin Washington’s absorbing new play about an all-but-forgotten civil rights leader, one of the biggest moments in the fight for racial equality comes off despite — or perhaps because of — a crisis of faith. Faith, in fact, becomes a key motif coursing through BLUEPRINTS TO FREEDOM: An Ode to Bayard Rustin. There’s the faith that other African-American activists place in Rustin to organize the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, despite plenty of agonized mutual history. There’s the broader faith in the idea that such an action can make a difference, with discrimination and segregation still pervasive in America 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. And then there’s Rustin’s own deep Christian faith, shattered (by his count) 669 days before the play begins, when he was forced to quit the Southern Christian Leadership Council over worries about publicity concerning his private life. Rustin, a pillar of the civil-rights movement who died in 1987, was a gay man (more or less openly so) in a time when that was difficult even for someone not already facing bigotry. That aspect of his identity helps explain why his name has faded from our nation’s roll call of those who led the movement in the 1960s. The play … is an often lyrical, dialogue-rich piece of work whose political sweep and sense of building momentum is reminiscent of ALL THE WAY, Robert Schenkkan’s 2014 Tony Award-winner about President Johnson’s push to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 … [There is] humor, too. When Rustin’s bright young assistant, Miriam Caldwell, asks Rustin and his mentor, A Philip Randolph, why they speak so formally, Randolph replies that it’s a nod of respect to their ancestors. Rustin’s response: ‘I do it to confuse white people.’ (After a pause, he adds: ‘I speak this way aloud because I speak this way to God.’) Despite the triumphant notes around the march, which drew a quarter-million people, there’s a storm yet to come in BLUEPRINTS. There’s always another storm to come, as the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement can attest today. BLUEPRINTS bears witness that history matters, too.” —James Hebert, The San Diego Union-Tribune

About the Author


  • Michael Benjamin Washington

    Born and reared in Dallas, Texas, Mr. Washington is best known for his breakout turn as Donald Jordan on Tina Fey and Robert Carlock's hit NBC comedy 30 Rock and can be seen in their third season of Netflix's Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt opposite Titus Burgess. Other television credits: Glee; Law & Order; The Jury; 100 Questions; 10 Things I Hate About You; Wendell & Vinny; and Hope and Faith, among others. Stage credits: the international mega-hit MAMMA MIA! (original Broadway company); the 2005 Tony Award-winning revival of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES; and Stephen Sondheim's SATURDAY NIGHT at Second Stage. La Jolla Playhouse: THE WIZ directed by Des MacAnuff; MEMPHIS directed by Christopher Ashley; LETTERS TO OBAMA; and MOST WANTED. Mr. Washington's political drama, BLUEPRINTS TO FREEDOM: AN ODE TO BAYARD RUSTIN, concerning the openly gay Civil Rights icon and his making of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, had successful developmental workshops at the McCarter Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse under the direction of Phylicia Rashad before enjoying sold-out world premiere co-productions at La Jolla Playhouse and Kansas City Repertory Theatre in 2015, winning Outstanding New American Play by the Edgerton Foundation; the San Diego Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Leading Actor in a Play for his portrayal of Mr. Rustin. He is penning a stage play about Dr. Maya Angelou at the request of her estate and The Caged Bird Foundation. He was seen with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal in Ed Zwick's feature film Love and Other Drugs as Richard. Training: B.F.A. New York University Tisch School of the Arts; Journalism minor. He is a Presidential Scholar in the Arts and serves as a National Reviewer and Masterclass instructor for National YoungArts Foundation and is a member of the Broadway Inspirational Voices.

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 5/12/2023
Pages 74
ISBN 9780881459692

Special Notes

Special Notes

Licensees are required to include the original stage producers credits in the following form on the title page in all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play and in all advertising in which the full cast appears in size of type not less than ten percent (10%) of the size of the title of the Play:

Produced in 2015 by La Jolla Playhouse
Christopher Ashley, Artistic Director & Michael S. Rosenberg, Managing Director
Kansas City Repertory Theatre
Eric Rosen, Artistic Director & Angela Lee Gieras, Executive Director

The following must appear within all programs distributed in connection with performances of the Play:
Blueprints to Freedom: An Ode to Bayard Rustin is produced
by special arrangement with Broadway Play Publishing Inc, NYC