Spotlight on the Creative Team of DIFFERENT DOESN'T MEAN THE SAME

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In addition to our three retreat plays, we will also be holding workshops and a presentation of our newly commissioned TYA (Theatre of Young Audiences) piece entitled Different Doesn't Mean the Same. As playwright Larissa FastHorse describes, "This is a simple story about what being different means. The setting is in the late 1700’s in the interior region of Southern California, the land of the Cahuilla people." Different Doesn't Mean the Same is centered around two best friends, Naxanish and Nicil, who become separated when Nicil's family decides to join one of the missions. Larissa continues, "...the friends will learn that we are not all the same, and even though we’re both Cahuilla and both people, we have differences on the inside and outside; and that’s OK. We can accept, and even be friends with, someone who is very different from us."

This charming story is accompanied by music by Adryan Russ and puppets designed by G.W. "Skip" Mercier. Dani Bedau, the Head of Theatre for Young Audience at SDSU, steps in to direct and Steve McCormick, the Director of Education and Outreach at La Jolla Playhouse, serves as dramaturg.

About the playwright...

Larissa FastHorse (Sicangu Nation) grew up in South Dakota. Her recent productions include Teaching Disco Square Dancing to Our Elders: A Class Presentation and a workshop of Serra Springs with Native Voices at the Autry and Average Family with The Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis. Her TV pilot, The Line, has been optioned by Fox and she is currently writing several theatre and film projects. In her spare time she loves to choreograph. Larissa lives in Santa Monica with her husband, sculptor Edd Hogan.

The message: I hope the audience will learn to embrace and celebrate differences in themselves and each other. We don’t have to be the same or agree to be friends or part of the same culture.

Goals for the retreat: Personally, I want to get over my life long fear of puppets! (They freak me out). I also want to bask in the creative brilliance of my team of collaborators and soak up their input like a sponge. I am so honored and excited to learn from all of them.

Inspiration: I started my career as a ballet dancer because it was the most challenging thing I had ever done. After my dance career, I tried to leave theatre, but the people and energy pulled me back in and I am eternally grateful!

Influence: I’m mostly influenced by dance artists, since that’s a language I’ve been speaking for 30 years. However, I’m one of those people who believe I learn from every live theatre experience I have had the privilege to attend, good or bad.

To do list: Organizing my photos from the year I was in Fame, the Musical in Europe. I think kids have been born and are in middle school since then!

Indulgence: Leaving my Blackberry at home and going for a walk at the beach with my husband.

Future: I hope Native Voices will grow many more Native artists in all areas of theatre, not just writers, directors and actors. I hope they are known as a professional space that people want to work in and explore brave work that isn’t known as Native, but just good theatre.
About the composer...

Adryan Russ co-wrote off-Broadway’s Inside Out, about six women in group therapy, which has played across the U.S. and abroad and is published by Samuel French. The score, distributed by DRG Records, is available at PlayWorksMusic@aol.com. Her musical The Ugly Duckling played at Theatre West’s Storybook Theatre and her CD Everyone Has A Story, released by LML Music (www.lmlmusic), features Broadway/Los Angeles performers such as Susan Egan and David Burnham. An ASCAP writer, NARAS member, and Academy of New Musical Theatre alumnus, she serves on the board of The Society of Composers & Lyricists. Her song Is It Me? appears in the movie Doubt.

About the puppet designer...

Skip Mercier was honored with a Tony and two Drama Desk nominations for his set and costume designs for Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass by Julie Taymor and Eliott Goldenthal at Lincoln Center. His designs for musicals in New York include: Five Course Love; Miracle Brothers; People Are Wrong; Eli’s Comin’; True History and Real Adventures; Dream True (Drama Desk Nomination for Best Set Design); Bed & Sofa (Drama Desk Nomination for Best Set Design); and Wilder. Since completing his training at Yale, over 350 of his designs for theatre, musical theatre, opera, dance, film, and television have been realized and have earned numerous awards. Skip also wrote and directed Flock, a puppet music theatre work at Dell’Arte International in California.

About the director...
Dani Bedau is an Assistant Professor and the Head of Theatre for Young Audiences and the Director of the Theatre, Youth, Media, Education Arts Center at SDSU. She founded Will Power to Youth, a nationally recognized, model arts-education program for Shakespeare Festival/LA. Dani’s work and research emphasize the importance of community building, safety, identity development, dialogue and growing emotional intelligence in the classroom and rehearsal space. She has a growing interest in playwriting and directing new plays.

About the dramaturg...

Steve McCormick is the the Director of Education and Outreach at La Jolla Playhouse where he commissions and produces the annual POP Tour—an original play for young audiences that tours to over 14,000 children throughout San Diego County each year. He completed his MFA in Theatre for Youth at Arizona State University in 2001. Before coming to the Playhouse in 2006, Steve was the Associate Artistic Director/Education Director at First Stage Children's Theater in Milwaukee where he worked for almost fifteen years. He has also worked as an educator, director and/or performer for Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Nashville Children's Theatre, Childsplay (AZ), Illinois Shakespeare Festival and the Tennessee School for the Blind.

Check back next week for spotlights on our wonderful TYA actors...

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