Trey Ellis had done a lot of things in his life.
He’s written movies, books and TV shows. He’s been a political pundit, a social critic and a Huffington Post contributor. He’s won a Peabody, been nominated for an Emmy and shortlisted for a PEN Award.
He teaches at Columbia University, was a non-resident fellow at Harvard, and taught or lectured at Yale, NYU, the University of New Mexico, and in Brazil and France.
But until a decade ago, the Westport resident had never written a play.
That’s when the Lincoln Center Institute commissioned a work by Ellis about the Tuskegee Airmen. He’d already earned honors for a 1995 HBO film on the African American pilots who overcame fierce racism to become one of World War II’s finest US fighter groups. They never lost a bomber.
Ellis and Ricardo Khan turned the movie into an hour-long play, called “Fly.” Originally aimed at students, a longer version was staged a few years later at the Vineyard Theater in Massachusetts, then the Crossroads Theater in New Jersey — one of America’s leading black companies.
It’s since moved on to Ford’s Theatre in Washington — where several of the real Tuskegee Airmen saw it — and the Pasadena Playhouse.
Ellis is very proud of “Fly.” The other day — quoting Martin Luther King — he noted that while the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice. However, the playwright added, recent racial strife in America has made stories like the Airmen’s more relevant and important than ever.
Now “Fly” — which the New York Times called “a superior piece of theatrical synergy” — is coming to the New Victory Theater on 42nd Street. It runs March 11-27.
Ellis will be there. So will his family — including his son Chet (the name of one of the show’s main characters), and Chet’s friends.
But there’s one more place Ellis would like to see it produced: the Westport Country Playhouse.
“I go to as many productions there as I can,” the playwright says. “I would love to bring this to my adopted hometown.”