|Bella: An American Tall Tale|
|Premiere||September 22, 2016: Dallas Theatre Center, Dallas, Texas|
|Productions||2016 Dallas, Texas|
2017 Playwrights Horizons
The musical originally premiered at Dallas Theatre Center on September 22, 2016 before its Off-Broadway premiere at Playwrights Horizons on May 19, 2017. The Off-Broadway production was co-presented by Playwrights Horizons and Dallas Theatre Center. 
Kirsten Childs noticed that African Americans were not present in history books during the 1870s in the Wild West. Childs wanted "to create a new myth celebrating the power and the beauty of the black female." When Childs was considering writing this musical, she realized she did not know much about African Americans during the 1870s. She went to the library to research the history of African Americans during this time period. She learned about the Buffalo Soldiers Buffalo Soldier, who inspired the character of Aloysius T. Hunnicut.
Childs was inspired to write the character of Bella after seeing an African American woman as she was walking to her apartment. Childs recounts that the woman had the biggest butt she had ever seen, and every man in the vicinity of her was staring at her butt. She also wants African Americans, who were torn from their original homes and know little of their history, to feel a sense of pride of who they are. This want inspired the song "The Language of My Nose and Lips and Hair," sung by Bella's grandma, about the history of Black Americans in the United States. Childs also touches on how, after the American Civil War, African Americans were allowed to be full citizens, but the Ku Klux Klan rose up to put an end to that.
The character of Nathaniel Beckworth, who is a train porter, is based on a real-life, African American train porter named Nat Love. His last name "Beckworth" comes from James Beckwourth, who was an explorer, rancher, and fur trader. Tommie Haw is another real-life character that appears in Bella. Childs learned about his story while researching the Mai Wah Society in Butte, Montana, which works to document the history of Asian-Americans in the Rocky Mountains.
Bella takes place in the 1870s in the Old West. Bella, a "Big Booty Tupelo Girl," sets off to Kansas to meet her fiance, Aloysius T. Honeycutt, who is a Buffalo Soldier. Bella must make this journey under a false name in order to escape the law. Back home in Tupelo, Mississippi, Bella is in trouble for beating up Bonny Jonny. Her Mama, Grandma, and Aunt Dinah encourage her to leave the state so that she is not arrested. When Bella boards the train headed for Kansas, she attracts the attention of the passengers because of her large bottom. While on the train journey, Bella has fantasies about a gaucho and a Chinese cowboy. A porter on the train, Nathaniel Beckworth, falls in love with Bella.
Cast and Character
- Ashley D. Kelley — Bella
- Marinda Anderson — Ida Lou/Aunt Dinah
- Yurel Echezarreta — Diego Moreno/CP Conyers
- Brandon Gill — Nathaniel Beckworth
- Olli Haaskivi — Gabriel Conyers/Scooter
- Kevin Massey — Snaggletooth Hoskins/Bonny Jonny
- Jo’Nathan Michael — Mr. Dinwiddie/Scumbucket
- Kenita R. Miller — Miss Cabbagestalk/Mama
- Paolo Montalban — Tommie Haw/Skeeter
- Clifton Oliver — Aloysius T. Hunnicut
- Gabrielle Reyes — Mrs. Dinwiddie/Nurse
- NaTasha Yvette Williams — Grandma/Spirit of the Booty
- "Dallas Theater Center | BELLA". www.dallastheatercenter.org.
- "Bella: An American Tall Tale Releases Original Cast Album February 22 | Playbill".
- "Review: In 'Bella,' an Indomitable Heroine Goes West - The New York Times".
- Childs, Kirsten (February 15, 2019). "Track-by-Track Breakdown: Kirsten Childs on the Wild Ride of Bella: An American Tale". Playbill.
- Benjamin, Joel (June 20, 2017). "Bella: An American Tall Tale - Playwrights Horizons". TheaterScene.net.