The Conductor

By Ishmael Reed
Directed by Carla Blank
August 24 – September 10
AUG 24 - SEP 10; THU, FRI, SAT at 8 PM, SUN at 3 PM

Executive Director, Crystal Field

Presents a return engagement of

The Conductor

A two act play by Ishmael Reed
Directed by Carla Blank

August 24 – September 10, 2023
Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8:00PM, Sunday at 3:00 PM
Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Tickets $18

Theater for the New City
155 First Avenue (between 9th & 10th Street)

In San Francisco, former school board members Alison Collins and Gabriela López were objects of threats because they sought to replace a scandal ridden test system with what they deemed a fairer Lottery system. The neo-liberal corporate press joined extremists groups in their condemnation of the two.
For some, the two are ultra-progressives. To others, they are the Rosa Parks and Dolores Huertas of the school reform movement.

In Reed’s play, the character Shashi Parmar is the face. But his role as a Recall leader is threatened when the downing of a US spy plane over Indian airspace occurs, coupled with the growing tensions between the nationalist Indian leader, Siraj ud-Daulah, and the United States. As a result, anti-Indian sentiment rises on the West Coast. Indian Americans must hide or leave the country. A new Underground Railroad is established to convey Indian Americans to Canada, from whence they can get passage to rejoin family and friends in India. Unlike the 19th Century when Abolitionists harbored fugitive slaves, “The Conductor” of the 2020s is a Black journalist named Warren Chipp, Shashi’s rival. Some scenes go off like fireworks as the two debate their positions on the Recall. In this play, the women, Kali Parmar, a women’s studies professor and Melody Wells, a journalist, are not innocent bystanders. They have lines too.

This re-run might be one of the most important of the New York Theater season. When CNN was preparing a recent documentary about San Francisco and the Recall movement they filmed portions of a virtual reading of “The Conductor” and interviewed two of the board members who were recalled, Alison Collins and Gabriela Lopez. We were hopeful that they would present a balanced view of the issue. Instead, they called and said they’d decided to omit the coverage of our play and Alison and Gabriella’s POVs. Their “documentary” went for the one-sided headline: “Progressives are destroying San Francisco.” Our play leaves in what they left out.


Sri Chilukuri – Shashi Parmar
Emil Guillermo – Gabriel Noitallde
Laura Robards – Hedda “Buttermilk” Duckbill
Monisha Shiva – Kala Parmar
Brian Anthony Simmons – Warren Chipp
Kenya Wilson – Melody Wells

Humzah Akbar (understudy, Shashi Parmar)
Joy Renèe LeBlanc (understudy, Melody Wells and Kala Parmar)
Aaron Watkins (understudy, Warren Chipp)

Writer – Ishmael Reed
Director – Carla Blank
Production Coordinator – Rome Neal
Set Design – Mark Marcante
Light & Sound Design – Alexander Bartenieff
Costume Design – Diana Adelman
Set Decorator and Props – Lytza Colón
Stage Manager – Emily Yarmey

What the critics have to say about THE CONDUCTOR

“The Conductor” is an intriguing play that allows an audience a front row glimpse of the burning issues that plagued The San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education during 2021-2022….witty….hilarious
—Eric Frazier, Daily Challenge

“Ishmael Reed once again brings his social insight, sharp wit and irrepressible sense of humor to the stage. He effectively weaves actual events with a fictional what if? scenario..”
–Rachel deAragon, The Village Sun

.”.well-crafted, intellectually fueled discourse”
–Edward A. Kliszus, Opening Night Online

“You don’t shy away from interracial conflict not being just a Black-white thing….There you are presenting a stark reality…while at the same times it’s a satire and it’s also hilarious. How you blend politics into your everyday—that’s what gives life to all your writing for me….’a good word for you:’ combat mode’. Words attack the page and explode off it!””
–Bob Holman interviewing Ishmael Reed about THE CONDUCTOR in The Brooklyn Rail

COVID Protocol:
As of September 26th, 2022, we are no longer requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for our audience upon entry.
Wearing of masks is suggested in the lobby, restrooms and performance spaces at Theater for the New City, but they are not required.