Call for Scripts - Take back the Land

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Native Voices at the Autry

Call for Scripts 2016-2017

*Please note that we only accept submissions written for the stage or theatre by Native American, Alaska Native, Hawaiian, and First Nations artists.

For Short Plays
Deadline: August 19, 2016
Short plays submitted by August 19, 2016 will be considered for Native Voices’ 6th Annual Short Play Festival, to take place in November 2016 at the American Indian Arts Marketplace at the Autry in Los Angeles, and at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. Read more about the theme for the Short Play Festival below.

The 6th Annual Short Play Festival
This year’s short play festival theme is Take Back the Land. Native Voices invites playwrights to address topics surrounding their environment from an indigenous perspective. Climate change, resources, sustainability, GMO’s, border and land disputes, spiritual ties to land– these are among the many themes that may be explored in short play submissions. Plays may focus on historical or present-day issues, or on the problems future generations will face. Water shortages, overpopulation, extreme weather, firestorms, greenhouse emissions, scarcity of fish and game, poisoned water supplies… are we doing enough to preserve the traditional homelands of the first peoples? Of the planet? How are indigenous lives affected by the rapidly changing, industrial and globalized world in which we live? What are unique environmental issues faced by Native communities– and what, if anything, can we do to change them?

Selection Process: Short plays (15 page maximum) that are related to the theme and are received by August 19, 2016 will be read and evaluated by a national reading panel comprised of Native American theatre artists and community members along with nationally-recognized theatre artists. The panel will select 5 to 8 plays for the festival based on the creative use of the theme, originality, theatricality, and execution.
Selected plays will be given a staged reading on November 13, 2016 as part of the Autry National Center’s American Indian Arts Marketplace and again in San Diego at La Jolla Playhouse on November 14, 2016.  A panel of judges will select the 2016 Von Marie Atchley Award for Excellence in Playwriting, a $1,000 cash prize!
Plays that are longer than 15 pages will not be considered for the Short Play Festival. Please note that the Short Play Festival is only open to Native American, Alaska Native, and First Nations Playwrights.
Plays must be submitted using our online submission form and in the correct format. Please see our “Checklist for All Submissions” below for further details.  

For Full-Length Plays

Deadline: October 21, 2016
Native Voices is currently accepting submissions of full-length plays (60+ pages) by Native American writers addressing all themes and topics.

2017 Playwrights Retreat and Festival of New Plays

The retreat and festival brings artists to Los Angeles to work on 3–5 plays through a rigorous directorial and dramaturgical commitment for 8–10 days in May/June. The retreat culminates in public presentations of the plays at the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles and La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. Selected playwrights receive directorial and dramaturgical support as well as an honorarium; out-of-town artists receive roundtrip airfare plus lodging in Southern California.

Selection Process: Full-length plays (60+ pages) received by October 21, 2016 will be read and evaluated. A select number of playwrights will be invited to submit formal proposals detailing their developmental goals should their play be chosen for the short list. Scripts will then be sent to a committee of nationally recognized theatre artists for further evaluation. With their help, Native Voices selects up to five plays for the Playwrights Retreat and Festival of New Plays. Playwrights will be notified in January 2017.

A Note About the Native Voices Distance Dramaturgy Process

Months prior to residencies at the Playwrights Retreat and Festival of New Plays, selected playwrights participate in dramaturgical conversations with an assigned director and dramaturg. Workshops with these creative teams and a cast of professional actors commence once the playwright arrives on-site. It is important to note that these conversations and workshops are playwright driven, allowing the writer to shape his/her own developmental path. Selected playwrights should be prepared to dedicate adequate time to this process prior to arriving on-site.

Checklist for All Submissions

  • Please label script attachment as follows: PlayTitle_Author’s Last Name, First Initial (Example: MyNewPlay_Doe, J.doc).
  • All submissions must conform to a standard play-script format (one-inch margins, #12 Times or Courier font, all pages numbered).
  • Include a title page with full contact information (mailing address, phone numbers, e-mail address) and a draft or revision date.
  • Include a character breakdown at the beginning of your script.
  • Provide a biography of 75–100 words. Please label attachment as follows: Bio_Author’s Last Name, First Initial (Example: Bio_Doe, J.doc).
  • Provide a press ready photo of at least 300dpi.  Please label attachment as follows: Photo_Author’s Last Name, First Initial (Example: Photo_Doe, J.doc).
  • Provide development history for the play. Label attachment as follows: DevHistory_PlayTitle_Author’s Last Name, First Initial (Example: DevHistory_MyNewPlay_Doe, J.doc).
  • To submit, fill out our online form and upload your submission materials here: Native Voices Script Submission Form
Please do not send treatments or outlines. Previously submitted plays should only be resubmitted if the play has undergone significant dramatic changes. Plays that are not selected are kept on file for consideration for future opportunities. Playwrights are encouraged to make multiple submissions (up to three per event), but selection will be limited to only one play per playwright, per event.
Where to Send Submissions
We now only accept electronic submission (in Word or PDF format).
To submit, fill out our online form and upload your materials here: Native Voices Script Submission Form

For More Information:
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Meet the Playwrights - Festival of New Plays

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Jason Grasl 
Lying with Badgers by Jason Grasl (Blackfeet)
A Blackfeet man faces his troubled relationship with his late father and his culture when he returns to his estranged family's remote mountain home.
Jason Grasl

What is your favorite thing about playwriting? 
The idea of ultimate creative freedom in any direction

What is your least favorite thing about playwriting?
The realization of the idea of ultimate creative freedom in any direction

What are your favorite plays?
The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
A Few Good Men by Aaron Sorkin

What’s the best cure for writer’s block?, listicles...wait are we talking about distractions or cures?

What play do you wish you had written and why?
Any play Shakespeare wrote.

What are you most looking forward to during the workshop and festival?
I wanna find out what I don't know about my characters yet. I'm also excited to see the progress of the other two plays from day 1 to the public reading.

Delanna Studi
And So We Walked by DeLanna Studi (Cherokee)
Accompanied by her father, a Cherokee artist-activist retraces her ancestors' footsteps along the Trail of Tears.
Delanna Studi

What is your favorite thing about playwriting?
It's my escape. I love creating a new world, telling stories, reimagining life. It's all about the journey that I am on and the one I hope the audience will take with me.

What is your least favorite thing about playwriting? 
The vulnerability of it all. It's scary showing up. It's downright terrifying to create something and then present it to the world, because what is created is an extension of all that is me: my dreams, my insecurities, my success, my shame. It's all there.

What is your favorite play?
Dear Lord, there are so many! I love "American Night" by the Culture Clash and "Party People" by Universes.  Robert Schenkkan's "All The Way". Mary Zimmerman's "White Snake".  I'm a little biased, but I love "August: Osage County".

What’s the best cure for writer’s block?
Writing. Just keep showing up. Sometime the Muse will meet me, but if not, he knows he can find me everyday from 9:00 to 1:00. 

What would the title be of the play/movie based on your life?
Haha. This is a trick question! "And So Walked". Or perhaps "Perfectionism: My Time in the Hamster Wheel"

What play do you wish you had written and why? 
Anything by Shakespeare or Chekov! Their mastery of language and craft boggles my mind. And yet, every time I see one of their plays, I am astounded by what I failed to notice before, or how it resonates differently with me as I have gotten older. 

Where do you get your inspiration for your work?
Life. My parents, my relatives, and the unique people I encounter in my travels that give me a glimpse into a new perspective.

What are you most looking forward to during the workshop and festival?
Surviving! I'm teasing (but only a little). I love seeing new works develop, their journey from beginning to end and all the possibilities in between! I love the collaboration, all the work that goes on behind the scenes to bring a version of a finished project to life.

Mary Kathryn Nagle
Fairly Traceable by Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee)
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a young Ponca man pursues environmental law to expose the disastrous effects of man-made climate change.
Mary Kathryn Nagle

What is your favorite thing about playwriting?
The moment when the play grows from being something that exists exclusively in my mind or imagination and becomes a shared story. Nothing is more magical than the first moment you hear actors read the script aloud.

What is your least favorite thing about playwriting?
The isolation.  I am a rather social person, and it is hard for me to carve out sufficient time to be alone.

What is your favorite play?
Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light by Joy Harjo

What’s the best cure for writer’s block?
becoming a lawyer. I think because I'm a trained lawyer, I don't how to "not write." I certainly write a lot of things that are awful, stinky, and useless. So I am the Queen of Rewrites. But as a trained lawyer with continuous impending deadlines, stopping writing because it's "hard" to know what to write next is never an option. You just keep writing. Because you have to. So I don't really experience writers block. But like I said, I have experienced writing a lot that needs substantial revisions!

What would the title be of the play/movie based on your life? 
MKN: the Pontius Piranha

What play do you wish you had written and why?
An Octoroon because if I had written that play, I would have given Native People an authentic voice in the play and removed one more play from the American cannon where Native People are portrayed as nothing more than a prejudicial stereotype created in the 19th Century to support genocide.  

Where do you get your inspiration for your work?
My grandmother, Frances Polson, and my grandfathers, John Ridge and Major Ridge. My grandfathers sacrificed their lives to save the sovereignty of Cherokee Nation, and their sacrifice inspires me to share the stories that for hundreds of years in the United States, have been silenced.

What are you most looking forward to during the workshop and festival?
Watching the development of DeLanna and Jason's plays. I feel starved for Native theater in the United States. Native Voices is one of the only theaters in the United States committed to producing and developing Native plays. So it's not very often that I get to see the work of other Native playwrights come to life.

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Boarding school research (con't)

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Links to research from others:

10 books about residential schools to read with your kids - CBC Canada

Indian Boarding Schools - PBS

Thomas Moore

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Boarding School research

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The stories from Indian Boarding School come from or were inspired by the following sources, personal histories and family stories from the ensemble members.

Carlisle Indian Boarding School

Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940.
Brenda J. Child.  Published by University of Nebraska Press, 1998.

The Boarding School Blues: Revisiting American Indian Educational Experiences.
Clifford E. Tafzer, Jean A. Keller, Lorene Sisquoc. Published by University of Nebraska Press, 2006.

Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928.
David Wallace Adams. Published by University Press of Kansas, 1995.

Kill the Indian, Save the Man: the Genocidal Impact of American Indian Residential Schools.
Ward Churchill. Published by City Lights, 2004.

Native American Testimony.
Peter Nabokov. Published by Penguin Books, 1991.

They Called it Prairie Light: the Story of Chilocco Indian School.
K. Tsianina Lomawaima. Published by University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

"American Indian Boarding Schools: An Exploration of Global Ethnic & Cultural Cleansing." Jennifer Jones, Dee Ann Bosworth, Amy Lonetree.  Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture and Lifeways, 2011. Web.

"The Challenges and Limitations of Assimilation: Indian Boarding Schools."
The Brown Quarterly 4.3 (2001). Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research. Web.

"History and Culture: Boarding Schools." American Indian Relief Council. Web.

Cante Sica Oral Histories, Archival Footage, the Cante Sica Foundation, archived at the Autry’s Institute for the Study of the American West, Libraries and Archives

Montana Mosaic: Indian Boarding Schools.”
Directed by Gita Saiedi Kiely, Montana PBS. Web.

Unseen Tears: the Native American Boarding (Residential) School Experience in Western New York,” Directed by Ron Douglas, Vimeo. Web.  

Witness to Murder at Indian Residential School.” (excerpt, original no longer available)
Published by CBC Canada Web.

If you have done any Indian Boarding School Research, we'd love to know what you found!  Post a link in the comments and we'll include them.

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Meet the Playwright: Randy Reinholz

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Randy Reinholz (Choctaw)
"MEASURE FOR MEASURE adaptation" 2015 Retreat

What is your favorite thing about playwriting?
Time – time to think, to capture what I am thinking about.  The quite in my mind as I imagine the moments I am writing in the play.  Everything else stops, and I enter a trance.  For a brief moment I can see the future and all the details that inform it.  I love the choices of language to best describe and refine the thinking of the characters.  The actions and conflict come quickly. The polish is the thing that takes time.

What is your least favorite thing about playwriting?
Interruptions from people and events that are not connected to the writing project are a problem.  They are eternal, but when I really need to be creative, I unplug, get away from the people I love and focus.  I like ambient music at the beginning of the process, but even that gets turned off.
What is your favorite play?
My favorite play is the one I am working on now.  It is always my favorite play.  Today it is They Don’t Talk Back by Frank Henry Kaash Katasse.  I love to discuss classic texts with students.  Hamlet, Death of a Salesman, Streetcar Named Desire, Rez Sisters, Measure for Measure, Antigone, and the list goes on and on
What’s a production that you’ve seen recently and think everyone should see?
I liked a recent production of Come From Away at La Jolla Playhouse this summer.  Looking forward to seeing Blue Prints to Freedom. I loved Off the Rails
What’s the best cure for writer’s block?

To write.  Just choose a prompt.  For instance, “One time with my back against the wall I ….”  Just fill in the prompt and see where the story takes you.  If it runs out quickly, repeat the prompt.  A book with lots of these prompts is Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg.  You can also find them in the newspaper.  Find a headline that moves you – maybe one like “Child in SUV as suspected DUI mom crashes in Santee” Then use it as a prompt, by adding Why does it matter that a … Child in SUV as suspected DUI mom crashes in Santee.   Then follow your thoughts.  Explore / create the people in the story.  Who what where when WHY.  Then push those characters further than you ever thoughts was possible.

What would the title be of the play/movie based on your life?
Who Would’ve Thought or Really?
What play do you wish you had written and why?
No regrets here – I love so many plays – now I want to work with those texts.  I have so many to write still
Where do you get your inspiration for your work?
Inspiration comes from the artists and stories around me.  There is such wonder at every turn.  I feel blessed.  As a young actor I had to tell stories about myself during audition for commercials.  I could tell right away when people listened or stopped listening.  I found out what about my life and past interested people.  It was a challenge at the time, and now it is a treasure trove of gifts.
I love Tennessee Williams quote from The Glass Menagerie, “Memory takes a lot of poetic license.  It omits some details; others are exaggerated according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart.”  My memories come from the heart – both the ache and bliss.   
What are you most looking forward to during the workshop and festival?
 I love the time in the room with the team is all-together, when we find the key to make the play sing.  It is a magic moment when the play comes alive. 

From Ensemble photos
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Meet the Playwright: Joseph Valdez

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Joseph Valdez (Navajo)
"Timestop" 2015 Playwrights Retreat

What is your favorite thing about playwriting? 
My favorite thing about playwriting is the creation itself. I love the process of taking endless possibility and whittling it down to a specific choice.

What is your least favorite thing about playwriting? 
Getting started.

What is your favorite play?
The Motherfucker with the Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis

What’s the best cure for writer’s block?
Snacks! Whenever I get into a writing funk—I eat something that has a crunch to it—chips or crackers are the best. It helps me find my rhythm.

What would the title be of the play/movie based on your life? 
Little Big Joe

What play do you wish you had written and why? 
I won’t know the answer to this question until I die.

Where do you get your inspiration for your work? 
I get inspiration from the idea that my work may inspire change in someone someday.

What are you most looking forward to during the workshop and festival?
Working with an amazing group of artists!

From Ensemble photos
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Meet the Playwright: Frank Henry Kaash Katasse

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Frank Henry Kaash Katasse (Tlingit-Eagle/Tsaagweidí*)
"They Don't Talk Back" 2015 Playwrights Retreat

What is your favorite thing about playwriting?
Since They Don't Talk Back was really the first play I ever wrote, I can basically answer what my favorite thing about writing that particular play was. I really enjoy hearing how people process and interpret what I wrote. They will say with such certainty "Oh in that moment you meant blah blah blah," when actually I hadn't even thought about that. I think that is so cool. It is also awesome when they totally 'get' something I wrote. Like when I'm writing it I'm like, "Does this even make sense?!" Then when someone reads or hears a part and it is right on the money, I'm like, "Oh sweet, it did make sense!"

What is your least favorite thing about playwriting?
It is always hard trying to cut anything from your play. Like I know that scene, or monologue, or whatever doesn't fit in this play, but it still feels like my baby, ya know? 

What is your favorite play?
My favorite play is probably The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh.

What’s a production that you’ve seen recently and think everyone should see?
I think the play that has stuck with me the most from the last couple of years has been Warriors by Dave Hunsaker. A really powerful piece that had its world premiere at Perseverance Theatre in the summer of 2014. 

What’s the best cure for writer’s block?
I have a very slow process to begin with, so I generally don't even start writing until I have a good idea on what has to be written next. I have never been one to sit in front of my keyboard and hope for inspiration. I wait for ideas to pop into my head, then I flesh it out, then I type it all out.

What would the title be of the play/movie based on your life?
Half 'n Half

Where do you get your inspiration for your work?
I get it mostly from stories people tell me, or things I have seen. Then I sort of mold them to fit whatever narrative I had been planning.

Frank Henry Kaash Katasse

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Meet the Playwright: Justin Neal

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Justin Neal (Squamish)
"So Damn Proud" 2015 Playwrights Retreat

What is your favorite thing about playwriting?
When you hit that moment in dialogue writing where it's a conversation between characters that I merely feel like a vessel of some sort, that the characters have a life of their own and I'm merely a scribe. So, then, to see the actors embody these characters, with a director's vision and guidance, and together they make them these completely new spirits—that this character and story is a gift we all get to share together with the world at large.

What is your least favorite thing about playwriting?
Knowing that the story I want to tell has to fit within a comfortable amount of time, so creating the structure and the outline may be the least "fun" thing to do, it can then be the place to create and have the freedom to explore within that structure.

What is your favorite play?
Although Johnna's role I felt was greatly trivialized in the film, and I have never seen a production of it, but when I first read August: Osage County I was absolutely blown away by that story.

What’s the best cure for writer’s block?
Perhaps I am showing off a level of naivete here, but I don't believe it exists. When I went through periods of not writing I relied on substances (weed, booze, etc.) for inspiration. After moving beyond that through years of hard work and help from amazing people, I now find that I don't get stuck (knock wood) and when I am paused on a particular moment I know I have to put some thought about these characters and the world they live in, so I don't try to get anywhere in my thinking but rather take multi-hour long walks, or shoot baskets, or throw a baseball around, or sit in a bathtub, all things that will help me meditate on them and possible places I would like t
hem to go to. But not getting stuck on those places either, being open to other outcomes. Much of the time happy accidents—something random I witness in life, or I conversation I hear that informs some particular action. I then have faith these ideas are good and start writing away. And if not I ruminate some more until it's time.

What would the title be of the play/movie based on your life?
Keep Coming Back

What play do you wish you had written and why?
When I was 20 or so (a long time ago) I saw Raisin in the Sun in Seattle and I had only known a fairly generalized version of African-American history growing up with liberal parents in suburban Seattle with a minuscule Black population. This was the play that opened my eyes to a history I had never experienced, and empowered me to look closer at my own family story, and hence the struggle of other people of color—to write a play with that kind of impact, and create such a profound level of empathy is incredible.

Where do you get your inspiration for your work?
Childhood, work environments, people I admire, the lives I've lead.

What are you most looking forward to during the workshop and festival?
Definitely the culmination of all our collective efforts focused into the staged reading performance.

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March 2015

Off the Rails by Randy Reinholz (Choctaw)
Equity Production/World Premiere

March 2015

Stand-Off at HWY#37 by Vickie Ramirez
Joint Equity Production with University of South Dakota

May 2015

Timestop by Joseph Valdez (Navajo)
Workshop/Staged Reading

They Don’t Talk Back by Frank Katasse (Tlingit)
Workshop/Staged Reading

So Damn Proud by Justin Neal (Squamish)
Workshop/Staged Reading

June 2015

Little Big Joe the Bug Squasher by Joseph Valdez (Navajo)

There is No ‘I’ in NDN by Jennifer Bobiwash (Ojibway)

Stories from the Indian Boarding School by Native Voices Ensemble

November 2015

Crickets by Vicki Lynn Mooney (Cherokee)

Family Matters by Duane Minard (Yurok, Piaute)

On the Threshold by Sam Mitchell (Yaqui)

Red Pine by Ty Defoe (Ojibwe, Oneida)

Reeling by Frank Henry Kaash Katasse (Tlingit)

Siblings by Lori Favela (Yankton Sioux)

Warriors by Joseph Valdez (Navajo)

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March 2014
Stand-Off at HWY#37 by Vickie Ramirez (Tuscarora, Six Nations of the Grand River)
Equity Production/ World Premiere

June 2014
M4M: a Boarding School Comedy by Randy Reinholz (Choctaw)
Workshop/Staged Reading

There is No ‘I’ in NDN by Jennifer Bobiwash (Ojibway)
Workshop/Staged Reading

 Our Voices Will Be Heard by Vera Starbard (Tlingit)
Workshop/Staged Reading

September 2014
Boarding School Stories, Cut Short: Legacy & Loss, devised by Native Voices Ensemble

November 2014

Totem Boy by Joseph Valdez (Navajo)
Staged Reading

The Roadside Residential by Darrell Dennis (Shuswap)
Staged Reading

A Little Off the Top by Rob Vestal (Cherokee)
 Staged Reading

It’s Only a Truck by Dennis Tibbetts (White Earth Ojibway and Wind River Shoshone)
Staged Reading

The Cherry Orchard and Commodity Cheese by Vickie Ramirez (Tuscarora)
Staged Reading

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Spotlight on First Look Series: Measure for Measure

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Our FREE staged reading of Measure for Measure: A Boarding School Comedy is this Thursday, October 24th at 7:30pm at the Autry. Click here for more details

Excitement is in the room as we begin our second First Look Series workshop of the season. Described as "Blazing Saddles meets Shakespeare," Measure for Measure: A Boarding School Comedy is Native Voices founder and artistic director Randy Reinholz's adaptation of the William Shakespeare play, Measure for Measure. The original Shakespeare piece, written around 1603, deals with Catholicism's contradictions and asks serious questions about who should have moral authority. Who gets to decide right from wrong? And moreover, are the morally and spiritually righteous actually immune to the very same earthly, human impulses that get the rest of us into trouble?

Reinholz's adaptation is set in the American Old West, where the law is still in flux. Puritan Christian authority struggles to excercise control over late 19th century Genoa, Nebraska. Here, diversity and entrepreneurial opportunity flourish in form of the female-owned-and-run saloon and brothel, The Stewed Prunes Saloon. In direct contrast, however, the Indian Industrial School of Genoa strives to "Kill the Indian, Save the Man" by assimilating Native youth into the Christian belief system. A part of American history often left out of textbooks, the Indian industrial schools (or boarding schools) of the 19th to 20th centuries have been described by many as a system of cultural genocide.

The problem of cultural assimilation becomes apparent when a young Native man, Momaday, impregnates his Irish fiancee, Caitlin. The town's conservative authority figure, Angelo, refuses to recognize Momaday and Caitlin's marriage because it was done in the Indian way, rather than as a Christian ceremony. Momaday is sentenced to death for getting a white girl pregnant, and the townspeople converge to save him from an unjust fate.

Despite the depth of the ideas and themes in this adaptation, the play is outlandishly funny. As Reinholz describes it, "This issue [Indian boarding schools] rouses deep emotions even today. A play about this subject seems to want some kind of theatrical distance– so I chose comedy." Raucous, bawdy scenes of broad comedy are juxtaposed with Shakespeare's heightened poetry. Women have a stronger part to play in the resolution of this play than in the original text, too.

Below is a Q&A with Randy Reinholz about his adaptation and about the process of workshopping a new play.

Is this your first pass at playwriting/adapting a play? What made you decide to adapt this play, Measure for Measure, now?
As a director, I have often come up with concepts about where and when a Shakespeare text should occur. Early in my career it was about choosing a time and geographic region that would serve the aesthetics of the play. Then, with all the university work I did, it also became important that productions introduced students to the lives and values of people of various periods and regions of the world.

Through the years, I became more confident using Shakespeare's story structure and changing character motivations to redirect the audience's focus and reveal other worlds of the play. Looking at Measure for Measure– which I have always loved– I thought I could make some simple changes to the text. I wanted to shift the focus of the story to the Old West, and substitute the examination of the institution of Catholicism to the brutality of Indian boarding schools. So few Americans know of this institution, its “moral” value system and the long-term cultural damage done by people of faith. Measure for Measure is both extremely funny and potentially tragic in the way the characters both abuse power and abdicate the responsibility for true governance. 

What was fun about adapting the play?
The women, they provided a depth of strength and comedy and vulnerability in the text. Shifting the focus of the action from men and women responding to conflict, to women responding to, then driving the action and eventual outcomes of the conflict was a great joy. I really look forward to hearing the text this week to see how to improve this aspect of the play. I think having a woman (Chris Anthony) direct is such a gift. She is a wonderful Shakespeare scholar and a dream in the way she works with actors.

What was challenging about adapting the play? 
Deciding what to keep and what to let go of from the original text. It must be similar to what a screen writer experiences, or a filmmaker’s process in distilling a big story for the screen.

Left to right: DeLanna Studi (Isabel),
Kenneth Ruthardt (James McDonald),
and Chris Anthony (Director)
What part of the writing workshop this week are you looking forward to most? 
I look forward to having the actors in the room, both making the text fly and hearing what causes them to stumble. That will be tricky – because so much of the “new” text is in heightened verse, so I have to be patient to hear if the dialogue is not working or if it just takes the actors time to unpack the language. About half the cast is familiar with heightened text, and the others will be new to the process. I have some AMAZING actors who can really lift Shakespearean text, too! 

Come see our FREE staged reading of Measure for Measure: A Boarding School Comedy, this Thursday, October 24th at 7:30pm at the Autry. Click here for more details

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Write a Short Play! (4 of 4)

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For Part 1 in the "Write a Short Play" series, click here!
For Part 2 in the "Write a Short Play" series, click here!
For Part 3, click here!
FAQs About our 3rd Annual Short Play Festival
Annual Call for Scripts: Submission Guidelines

Great news! Our deadline for short play submissions has been extended. Submissions for our short play festival are now due on August 8th, 2013

Now, you can breathe a sigh of relief. You have an extra week to write and submit a short play to Native Voices! We’re really excited to see what you come up with.

If you’ve been following our short play writing exercises, you’ll also be glad to know that it’s time for the fourth and final exercise: write the darn play!

Exercise 4: Write Your Short Play

For this exercise, it’s important to remember that there is an eraser on the end of your pencil (or correction fluid for your pen, or a backspace button on your keyboard). In other words, don't worry about getting your short play perfect the first time. Longtime Native Voices friend and award-winning playwright Rob Caisley reminded us of this saying:

“Don’t get it right, get it written!”

What you write today is just a first draft of many. Playwright, teacher, and Native Voices friend Julie Jensen emphasizes that each draft is “just an experiment. Nothing to fear, nothing to worry about.” You can always rewrite it. In fact, you should rewrite as part of your process.

“The difference between a so-so play and a good play is REWRITING,” Rob adds. “The difference between and good play and a great play is REWRITING. But until you've got a first draft, you've got nothing to improve.”

With this advice fresh in mind, return to your main character and antagonist. In the last exercise, your antagonist came up with 10 different ways to thwart your main character in his/her struggle to achieve their goal. In my example, Joe was doing everything he could to stop Jane from breaking up with him. His efforts included destroying his phone to avoid break-up texts, and physically chasing Jane down if she tried to run away. A crisis was ready to erupt between Jane and Joe. Time to write a confrontation!

Try writing a short play with your main character and antagonist. It doesn’t have to be very long (a short play can be as few as 5 pages long to submit to Native Voices).
  • Use at least three of your main character’s tactics to get what they want, and have your antagonist make at least three countermoves. 
  • Make the two characters worthy opponents– both should have something to gain, or something to lose (ex., Jane wants to gain freedom, while Joe doesn’t want to lose comfort/love/security/etc.). 
Once you have written your short play or scene, REWRITE it! Shake it up! Find a way turn it on its head. 
  • If your main character won what he/she wanted, then rewrite an ending where your antagonist gives one last, lethal blow, preventing the main character from attaining happiness. 
  • If your main character lost what he/she wanted, rewrite an ending where he/she gets a burst of potent energy and finds a way to achieve their goal. 
I won’t post the full script of Jane & Joe (Don’t) Break Up here. Be thankful! This literary assistant is happy to stick to reading plays, not writing them.

With an entire week left to write your short play, I hope to have plenty of reading to do when August 8th arrives. Remember, you can submit up to three (3) plays in each category, short or full-length. So send them in! Happy writing!

The deadline for short play submissions is now August 8th, 2013. For more info about our annual call for scripts, click here
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Write a Short Play! (3 of 4)

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For Part 1 in the "Write a Short Play" series, click here!
For Part 2 in the "Write a Short Play" series, click here!
FAQs About our 3rd Annual Short Play Festival
Annual Call for Scripts: Submission Guidelines

By now, you should have thought of
  • A character
  • Something he/she is going to do, and 10 different ways to do it
If you're like me, you have Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" stuck in your head, too.

Ready for part 3?

Exercise 3: The Antagonist

Conflict is central to most plays. As Julie Jensen, playwright, playwriting teacher, and friend of Native Voices says, "Someone wants something, someone else is in the way. Write that exchange, that negotiation, that argument."

Your main character wants something, but... someone is in the way: the antagonist. Think Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Harry Potter and Voldemort. Aragorn and Sauron!

Who is standing in your main character's way? And moreover, what does this antagonist need from your main character? It could be an item or object– something physical and tangible– or it could be an emotion (respect, love, admiration, etc).

What will the antagonist do to try to get this thing from your character, or to keep it? List 10 different ways your antagonist will counteract your main character. For each of the 10 ways your character pursued an action in the previous exercise, come up with 10 realistic ways for your antagonist to stop them.

In my example for Exercise 2, I decided that Jane wanted to break up with her boyfriend. Today, her boyfriend, Joe, needs her to stay. He desperately loves her and won't take no for an answer!

Joe must keep Jane from breaking up with him. He can...

1. Fake having bad reception on his phone so that she can't break up with him by phone call
2. Break his phone on purpose to avoid receiving the break-up text
3. Ignore all of his emails, or set his inbox to recognize Jane's mail as spam
4. Take Jane to a very crowded, public place on Valentine's Day, where it will be difficult and embarrassing for her to break up with him
5. Fall asleep or run out for dessert immediately after dinner to avoid a post-dinner break up conversation
6. Whisk Jane away on a romantic vacation to someplace she's always wanted to go, so she can't pack her bags and leave
7. Refuse to leave, because the apartment, furniture, and dog belong to him, too
8. Undertake a missing persons search, including pictures on milk cartons and ads, and a private investigator, so that Jane can't easily fake her own death or simply disappear
9. Be the best boyfriend ever, so that Jane's attempts to make him break up with her go awry
10. Put on his sneakers and literally chase Jane down the street if she tries to run away from him

As you might imagine, Jane is going to get very irritated with Joe. Joe is probably very upset with Jane. Yikes! It seems inevitable that my protagonist and antagonist will have some kind of argument or altercation.

Who is your antagonist, and what does he/she want? What are 10 ways he/she will get in the way of your main character? What kind of argument or confrontation are they likely to have?

Revisit the blog soon to try Exercise 4: The Short Play!

For more info about our annual call for scripts, click here.
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Write a Short Play! (2 of 4)

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For Part 1 in the "Write a Short Play" series, click here

Annual Call for Scripts: Submission Guidelines

Did you manage to think of a great character over the weekend? Ready to do something with him or her? Excellent! Let's go...

Exercise 2: 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover

Your character might be leaving their lover, or running for office, or both! Now that you have a character, what action will he or she take?

Once you've thought of something your character does, think about how many different ways your character can do this thing. Think of the song, "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover."

Make a list of 10 different ways your character can do the action you've thought of.

So, for example, Jane is breaking up with her boyfriend. She can:

1. Call
2. Text
3. Email
4. Wait until Valentine's Day
5. Have a compassionate conversation with him after dinner
6. Pack her bags and leave
7. Tell him to leave
8. Fake her own death
9. Force him to break up with her first
10. Put on her sneakers and literally run away

The list could go on, with a little creative thinking.

Obviously, some of these options merit explanation or justification if you plan to use them in your short play. (Take #8 for example. You're probably thinking, "...Seriously?" I know, I know. This is why yours truly is just a literary assistant, not a playwright. You're the brilliant ones!)

You'll have to think about the circumstances that surround what your character does, as well as the believability of your character's actions. Why does he or she want to do this thing? What consequences will he or she face if she takes any of these actions? Is it likely that he or she will be successful?

Naturally, your next impulse may be to decide what's getting in his or her way. Jane wants to break up with her boyfriend, but... what? You'll have to visit the blog again to find out!

Make a list of 10 ways for your character to take an action, and come back for Part 3!

To find more information about our annual call for scripts, click here. 

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