Native Voices at the Autry, America’s leading Native American theatre company, continues its tradition of excellence, developing plays by new and established Native American playwrights during its annual Playwrights Retreat and Festival of New Plays. The weeklong event culminates in free staged public readings of three intriguing new works at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles and at La Jolla Playhouse.
This year’s Festival will include an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure by Randy Reinholz (Choctaw*), There Is No “I” In NDN by Jennifer Bobiwash (Ojibway*), and Our Voices Will Be Heard by Vera Starbard (Tlingit/Dena’ina*). The plays are in various phases of development, ranging from initial stages to near completion. Native Voices is the nation’s only Equity theater company dedicated exclusively to the development and production of new plays by Native American playwrights.
MEASURE FOR MEASURE is directed by Chris Anthony with dramaturgy by Robert C. Caisley. 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 the local town and saloon inhabitants collide over the fate of a young Native 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.”
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.
THERE IS NO “I” IN NDN is a humorous and probing one-woman show that explores what it means to be NDN (Native American). It is directed by Darrell Dennis (Shuswap*) with dramaturgy by Jessica Ordon.
OUR VOICES WILL BE HEARD, directed by Jere Hodgin with dramaturgy by Laura Shamas (Chickasaw*), reveals a dark secret beneath the veneer of a harmonious family life. This dramatic and intricate tale, interwoven with the creation myth of “Wolverine Woman,” exposes the disastrous effects of sexual abuse on one Alaska Native community.
Readings at The Autry:
Wed. May 28
— 4:00 pm: There Is No “I” in NDN
— 7:30 pm: Our Voices Will Be Heard
Thurs. May 29
— 7:30 pm: Measure For Measure
Readings are free, but seating is limited and reservations are suggested. To reserve free tickets, call (323) 667-2000 x 354, or visit www.NativeVoicesattheAutry.org.
Readings at La Jolla Playhouse:
Saturday, May 31
— 2:00 pm: There Is No “I” in NDN
— 5:00 pm: Our Voices Will Be Heard
Sunday, June 1
— 2:00 pm: Measure for Measure
For tickets to the La Playhouse readings visit www.lajollaplayhouse.org.
*Refers to the artists’ tribal affiliation