Arts’ Watch: “I Dedicate This Ride: The Making of Issac Murphy”

Published 2:00 pm Friday, February 10, 2023

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By Bill McCann


Friday and Saturday night, only Frank X Walker’s play, “I Dedicate This Ride: The Making of Isaac Murphy,” will be performed at the Lyric Theatre in Lexington. The theater opens at 7:30 p.m. The curtain will rise at 8 pm. Tickets are $20 plus fees. For more information or to buy tickets visit

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Isaac Murphy, born into slavery in 1861, was a native son of Clark County. He was once one of the nation’s most famous persons because of his ability to ride a thoroughbred better than anyone else. Murphy rode in eleven Kentucky Derbies, winning three of them: 1884, 1890, and 1891. Altogether, he won an estimated 44% of the 1.412 races he rode during his 21-year career—a record of success likely never to be surpassed.

Murphy is a member of the Jockey’s Hall of Fame. Today, Lexington recognizes Murphy’s achievements with the Isaac Murphy Memorial Garden located on Third Street and Midland Avenue, where Murphy once owned a magnificent mansion.

Frank X Walker, a former Kentucky Poet Laureate, teaches in and administers the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of Kentucky. He also first coined the term “Affrilachia” to make the black experience in Appalachia visible.

The play, “I Dedicate this Ride: The Making of Isaac Murphy,” is based on Walker’s poetry collection (2010). Other works include “Affrilachia” (2000) and “Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers” (2013). Walker’s most recent work, “A is for Affrilachia,” is a children’s picture book illustrated by Ronald Davis that is to be published on February 21, 2023, by the University Press of Kentucky.

This weekend’s production of “I Dedicate This Ride: The Making of Isaac Murphy” is presented by Message Theatre and  directed by Cathy Rawlings.

“The Uncommon Grackle”, a literary magazine of the Gateway Regional Arts Center in Mt. Sterling, is accepting submissions of art, poetry, flash fiction, and short stories through February 28 for its next issue, which is due out in May 2023. Information about how to submit is at

Locally, the musical “Peter and the Star Catcher” is now in rehearsals at the Leeds Center for the Arts for opening night, February 24, at 7:30 pm. The show runs weekends from February 24 – March 5. More information and tickets at

If you have any interest in knowing more about censorship, visit the website of Judy Blume—at age 84, she is one of America’s most censored writers for young adults—for more information at