Native Voices’ Measure for Measure: An Indian Boarding School Comedy

Randy Reinholz NVNative Voices at the Autry, the country’s only equity theatre company dedicated exclusively to developing the work of Native American playwrights will present a free staged reading of Measure for Measure: An Indian Boarding School Comedy Thursday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 pm in the Wells Fargo Theater. It is a bawdy adaptation of Shakespeare’s play set in the Old West by Randy Reinholz (Choctaw), founder and producing artistic director of Native Voices at the Autry (pictured right).

The reading is part of Native Voices’ signature FIRST LOOK SERIES: Plays in Process, which brings playwrights together with professional directors, dramaturgs, and actors for a workshop and public presentation at the Autry, providing an important next step in the play’s development. It will be followed by an audience Talk-Back with Reinholz, director Chris Anthony (associate artistic director of The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles) and dramaturg Robert Caisley (associate professor and head of dramatic writing at the University of Idaho). 

In Reinholz’ new play, love, righteousness, faith and mercy compete for provenance on the frontier when an Indian boarding school, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and local town and saloon inhabitants collide over the fate of a young teenage boy unjustly sentenced to death. Reinholz, who describes the play as “Blazing Saddles meets Shakespeare,” says, “the peculiar American institution of the Indian boarding school system, where children were ‘stripped’ of their culture, rouses deep emotions among Americans – Native and non-Native – even today. I felt that this subject, and its related theme of standing up to authority, needed some theatrical distance – so I chose to make it a comedy.”

A rich linguistic amalgam, the play preserves passages of Shakespeare’s original text for the highbrow characters, while commoners use the vernacular of the day, as do the Native American and immigrant characters, whose speech is also peppered with their respective languages. Intended to examine the questionable ways in which Native culture is portrayed in contemporary American schools and history books, the play, says Reinholz, “gives those ideas serious comic ‘pies in the face.’” This is the play’s first public reading.

Native Voices at the Autry is located at The Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA, 90027-1462. The reading is FREE. For reservations or additional information, call (323) 667-2000 x 299, or visit www.NativeVoicesattheAutry.org.

Photo credit: Craig Schwartz

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