About Speed Killed My Cousin


Speed Killed My Cousin is a play by Linda Parris-Bailey, rooted in the story of an African American female combat soldier and her struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder upon her return home from Iraq. A third generation soldier, the central character courts death by vehicular suicide. 

The play predominantly takes place in a Hummer while the main character is driving down the L.I.E. (Long Island Expressway) in New York. As she struggles with flashbacks and memories, she tries to talk with her father about his experience in the Vietnam war, and her cousin – a Vietnam veteran who died in car crash shortly after his return. She also remembers her mother, and the women she left behind in Iraq, some of whom did not survive. Memories and scenes unfold before her, and in the rear-view mirror, as she’s driving. Ultimately she must decide whether or not let go of the wheel, as her cousin did, or to choose life.

In this complex historical moment, when global tragedies, liberation movements, economic upheaval and wars shape our world, we search for understanding through story. This work is based on the real stories of women in combat, and their struggle to deal with "normalcy" upon their return to the U.S. from Iraq and Afghanistan. "Speed" explores multiple issues including “Moral Injury” the history and otherness of African Americans in the military and women in combat. It's a contemporary story of survival and coping in a confusing and damaging world. It is a story that haunts, not only the soldier, but her/his family and community. Understanding the truth of the war experience can only be achieved by hearing the stories of its victims. Can we afford a new generation of soldiers that cannot heal? Can we know what women in combat will bring home to their families if we don't hear their stories? Can we stop the rise of suicidal acts by returning veterans?


“Speed” is a project centered in the experiences of women, and led by women artists: playwright Linda Parris-Bailey, Arab American director/dramaturge Andrea Assaf, visual/media artist Melody Reeves; and performed by the Carpetbag Theatre ensemble. The play includes original music, created by Kelle Jolly (with John Puckett), that draws from popular styles from both the Vietnam and Iraq war eras; as well as abstract vocal soundscapes created by the ensemble actors to illuminate the emotional life of environments real and imagined.

Speed is an original Carpetbag Theatre production, commissioned by Junebug Productions, Mason- Rhynes Productions, and the National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund program. Speed was also supported by The National Endowment for the Arts and the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Theater Project, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.