Native Voices on the Web

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In this booming age of digital technology when the answer to anything and everything is at your fingertips, it can become a bit daunting to know where the definitive answer lies. Nowadays, companies have multiple websites for multiple purposes and, when one only needs a single answer, searching through all those sites can be a bit frustrating. Since Native Voices is one of those many companies, I thought it'd be a good idea to break down our web presence for you in an attempt to reduce our digital divide.
Obviously, we have a blog, as most companies do. Ours is managed by myself, Carlenne Lacosta, Native Voices Director of New Play Development and Production. Since I am not part of a marketing team or specifically assigned to productions, my blog posts will have a different perspective from those  that are managed by marketing personnel and the like. As I've mentioned in the past, my goal for this blog is to expose our processes and to become a forum for what artists and audience members want to see and/ or read about. If you have a question, please feel free to post it. If you have a suggestion, please send it in. If you're uncomfortable with publicly posting on the blog itself, you can always make your posts anonymous or you can email me directly. On this site, you'll find our newly titled section "Links and Resources," which is a listing of opportunities you may find of interest, as well as an "About Us" page which is pretty self-explanatory. When we have events you can purchase tickets to (such as our Equity productions), our home page will include a section dedicated to our Box Office. But generally, this blog is used to explore topics related to new play development.
Whereas our blog features weekly posts, our Facebook page, which is managed by Native Voices Production Coordinator Caroline Chang, contains almost daily updates. If you mosey on over there right now, you'll see that we are seeking an Equity Stage Manager for our upcoming production of The Frybread Queen and if you scroll down a bit you'll see that The Public Theater is hosting an in-house workshop of Joy Harjo's Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light this weekend. Check out our Events page to see what our upcoming shows are and flip through our photos to see what you've missed if you've been unable to join us in Los Angeles. Of course, you can also find our contact information on there as well as copies of our blog entries for those unable to access this page through traditional means. Facebook contains the most up-to-date information on Native Voices and it's monitored pretty closely so I would bookmark this page as the best way to gain our most current information.

Our Twitter account is managed by our long-time friend and frequent Production Assistant Jennifer Bobiwash (or @bobiwash).

At this moment, you can view a link to an article about Thanksgiving meals that were delivered to residents of the Pine Ridge, Rosebud, Crow Creek, Lower Brule, Cheyenne River, and Standing Rock reservations; or a link to a blog post about human remains that were found at Oxford Alabama Stone Mound. On Fridays, you'll see Native Voices staff members posting their #viewatthemoment; since we all work from different areas, we thought it'd be interesting to see what our different work spaces look like. In September, Native Voices Executive Director Jean Bruce Scott shared her views of Missoula, Montana, her work space during the co-production of Frybread Queen and we can be sure to see views of snowy New York as both Jean and Native Voices Artistic Director Randy Reinholz will be there this weekend for the aforementioned Wings workshop. Twitter is a place where we can actively engage with our followers and disseminate information related to Native issues with a touch of a button.

Yes, we still have a Myspace account and it is chock-full of useful information. Not only will you see a listing of all the plays we've developed and produced since being in residence at the Autry, but you can view Visible Film Production's mini-documentary on our Young Native Voices project, "Our Voices, Our Stories" and peruse through a ton of pictures from our numerous events. Although our Myspace page isn't maintained as regularly as our other social networks, it undoubtedly contains the most comprehensive history of the company. Those interested in the company's past should definitely make this site one of their first stops.

Last, but certainly not least, is our Autry website. As implied by the image to the left, we are currently in the process of revamping our site - adding more pages, providing more content, etc - in order to make it your one-stop source for everything Native Voices. Because this overhaul is such an important project, it's hard to tell when "construction" will be complete but you can be sure that you, our blog readers, will be among the first to know. For now, you can visit the site to gain a brief history of the company as well as obtain ample descriptions of our different events.

And that's your cheat sheet to finding Native Voices on the web. If there's anything I've missed, something you'd like to know more about, please feel free to let me know. Social media is nothing without the interaction of our audience members so your views and opinions are not only welcome but essential.

Till next week!

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Awaking a Sleeping Language

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Photo courtesy of Jean Bruce Scott
Pictured left to right: Virginia Carmelo, Seema Sueko, Marie Clements, Jack Dalton, Julie Jensen
To accompany yesterday's post regarding the translation process for Tombs of the Vanishing Indian, Virginia Carmelo has kindly contributed the following reflection which I would like to share with you here:
Last June, I was asked to participate in a theatre workshop for playwrights as a consultant and wondered how I might contribute. It became clearer when I was presented the play written by Marie Clements. The play includes a theme about a Gabrielino ancestor. 
I had expected to translate a “few lines” into Tongva the language spoken by the Gabrielino/ Tongva Indians of the Los Angeles Basin. When I realized the few lines amounted to several pages, it became intimidating, as I have only studied this language a very short time (5 years) and I am one of only a few who have studied what is left of the language. Nevertheless I felt I could make a good attempt with the help of the linguist who has graciously given much of her valuable time to our effort.
While meeting with Marie Clements and Michelle St. John, I was impressed with their interest in fine tuning the various aspects relating to the Gabrielino Tribe, striving for authenticity. It was refreshing to find a commonality of ideas on Native topics and portrayal. This was possible because we all shared a native background and experience. A wave of excitement struck me by the possibility that this now sleeping language might not only be spoken but heard by many people here and in distant places. The thought was inspiring and awesome. It would be a tribute to those who knew no other language.
Then, there was mild concern that Carla-Rae would not have enough time to allow those sounds from long ago become familiar to her. Again, I was impressed by her focus in bringing age-old sounds to life.
I am privileged play a small part in putting together this creative endeavor that brings to light the Gabrielinos, their language, and history.
Virginia, thank you for your graciousness in sharing the language of the Gabrielino/ Tongva people with us. For that, we will be eternally grateful.
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A Story That Will Never Vanish

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Tombs of the Vanishing Indian, which takes place in Los Angeles during the 1970s, features a character referred to as the Lone Woman. She is a young mother who appears to the character Janey to guide her through her own suffering. The Lone Woman imbues Janey with the strength she needs to survive the life that's been handed to her - a life of abandonment and loneliness, of disappointment and seeming hopelessness.

In reality, the Lone Woman led a desolate life. A part of the Gabrielino Tribe, she and her people lived in peace on San Nicolas Island. That is, until the Russian and Aleut hunters stumbled upon the island in the early 1800s and decimated the Nicolenos who were trying to prevent them from hunting the nearby sea otters. Due to the violent nature of these encounters, the missionaries ordered that the remaining island Gabrielinos be brought to the mainland, ostensibly to keep them safe.

In 1835 or 1836, Captain Sparks landed on the island for this very reason. As the Nicolenos began to board the ship, a young woman was allowed to return to her hut allegedly to get her child whom was accidentally left behind. While the woman was away, a storm began to pick up and Sparks was forced to leave the island in order to save his ship, crew, and everyone else on board. The young woman was left behind and her memory became the legend of the Lone Woman. Years later, she was found and brought to the mainland only to die seven weeks after her "rescue."

When Sparks first arrived on the island, he reported that there were about 18 Nicoleno men, women, and children. Can you imagine: a whole culture left to only 18 people to sustain? It's pretty daunting. Needless to say, when these 18 men, women, and children arrived on the mainland, they were forced to assimilate to the dominate culture, coerced to forget their own way of life.

Native Voices exists to allow those who were formerly forced into silence to finally have a voice for their own stories. When playwright Marie Clements wrote Tombs, she included the Lone Woman to represent those who were made to "vanish." Inadvertently, by including this woman in her work, Marie has immortalized her so her story and the story of her people will live in perpetuity. Not only that, but this past summer Marie worked closely with Virginia Carmelo of the Gabrielino/ Tongva Nation to translate all of the Lone Woman's lines into Gabrielino further solidifying this culture's history. Working alongside Marie and Virginia were Assistant Director Jennifer Bobiwash and, of course, the actor who portrayed the Lone Woman, Carla-Rae.

To read about Jennifer's experience regarding the translation of this "dying language", please visit her blog "Floating... around..." The following is Carla-Rae's reflection of this incredible "honor":
What an honor to have been asked to play the role of the Lone Woman in the staged reading of Tombs of the Vanishing Indian by Marie Clements this past summer. 
Little did I know, as I devoured every word of the script, that I would be asked if I would be willing to play my character using the language of the original Gabrielino/ Tongva people. Joy, excitement, honor, and fear all mingled together as I heard my mouth say, "I will be glad to." The joy and excitement came because, as an artist, it is always fun to add new layers to the color and facets of a character. Fear, because as a cultural performer, the thought of “slaughtering” a culture’s language is totally, frightening. However, the honor of being given the privilege of trying speak the language, with all of its nuances, as the character of the Lone Woman, was what motivated me to do it. 
Virginia Carmelo, the wonderful woman who translated the work and helped me bring it to life, was such a joy to work with. When she had to leave to go home during the rehearsal process I felt as though she was entrusting me with a valuable gift. In essence, she did entrust me with a language that is tirelessly being revived by her people. It is a gift and one that I share with honor, to the Gabrielino/ Tongva people, each time I am given the privilege to perform it before an audience of new ears. 
It is my sincerest hope that I bring justice and honor to this beautiful language.
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From Frybread to Tombs

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First, an acknowledgement to last week's Frybread team for the incredible amount of work they were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time. Everyone arrived with the shared goal of strengthening the script's story line and providing playwright Carolyn Dunn with the support and encouragement she needed in order to achieve that goal. Carolyn reached a major breakthrough with the script this past week and we have Jere Hodgin, Rob Caisley, our very own Jean Bruce Scott, our amazing actors, and our lovely audience members to thank for that. I can't wait for you all to see Frybread Queen in her full regalia come March!

On a completely separate note, next week on November 16th at 7:30p, we, along with San Diego State University's Intercultural Center, American Indian Studies, and the School of Theatre, Television, and Film will be presenting a staged reading of Marie Clements' Tombs of the Vanishing Indian at SDSU's Experimental Theatre in celebration of American Indian Heritage Month. The cast includes Brian Bielawski, Jacob Bruce, Carla-Rae, Tonantzin Carmelo, David Ellenstein, Elizabeth Frances, and DeLanna Studi with Randy Reinholz directing. Please feel free to join us if you're in the area; the event is free and open to the public. Check back next week for info regarding the translation process for Tombs with testimonials from Virginia Carmelo of the Tongva/ Gabrielino Nation; Jennifer Bobiwash, our Assistant Director from this summer's Playwrights Retreat; and Carla-Rae, who will be reprising her role as The Lone Woman at this November's reading.

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Spotlight on our Frybread Ladies

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As you know, this week, Native Voices will be holding two readings of Carolyn Dunn's The Frybread Queen, as part of our First Look Series and in conjunction with the American Indian Arts Marketplace at the Autry. With that in mind, I thought this would be as good a time as any to introduce you to the incredible actors who will be bringing the play to life at the Wells Fargo Theatre. I've asked each of them to share their favorite Halloween/ Fall photo with us and answer two questions that will surely put you in the "frybread state of mind." I hope you enjoy the read!

LaVonne Rae Andrews, dressed as the Rich Witch, will be reprising her role as Jessie

Carlenne: Have you ever seen a ghost or had a supernatural encounter?
LaVonne: Believe it or not, I hear voices all the time! Usually those "inner" kinds that tell you what off-ramp to take (to avoid a traffic snarl) or one that warns me about "unsavory" behaving people (even though I know that people are basiclly perfect at their core). And yes, I get visits from my now departed family and friends in my dreams. I especially like the visits from my wonderful Dad from time to time, my Wisdom Teacher.

Carlenne: Is there anything you cook that you're the "queen" of?
LaVonne: Me cook?! My best meals are those I've made via "reservations"! No, not Indian reservations but at restaurants! My cooking days are over! Loved it then but have since used up my cooking gene!

Adeye Sahran, dressed as Miss Scarlett O'Hara, will be joining the cast as Carlisle

Carlenne: Have you ever seen a ghost or had a supernatural encounter?
Adeye: When I was a freshman in high school, the ghost of a dark haired girl of about 8 years old used to follow me around for about a year. Even on sleepovers. She never really scared me, I actually got really used to her.

Carlenne: Is there anything you cook that you're the "queen" of?
Adeye: My eggs benedict, french toast, and chicken pot pie have ruined all others for my family. I rule at them!

Arigon Starr, dressed as Judge Ito along with her friend Brian who's dressed as Andy Warhol, will return to the role of Annalee

Carlenne: Have you ever seen a ghost or had a supernatural encounter?
Arigon: The Frybread Queen seems to come with its own built-in ghosts. I was privileged to be part of the Montana cast of Frybread Queen in September and the cast and crew were buzzing about odd happenings. At least five people working at the theater lost their keys, then found them later nowhere near where they were originally lost. I had a sighting of a figure in black behind one of the set flats. I was heading backstage and saw someone dressed in black looking back towards the stage. I was going to squeeze around them, say “excuse me” and was surprised when I got closer that there was NO ONE standing there. As all of the stage hands were dressed in black, I figured it was one of them. Boy, was I chilled when there was no one really there. It must have been one of those “shadow people” they talk about on “Coast To Coast AM” all the time. AAY!

Carlenne: Is there anything you cook that you're the "queen" of?
Arigon: Would have to be rice and beans. I’m a vegetarian and there are usually rice and beans on standby on the stove or in the fridge. There is nothing like the scent of carrots, onions and celery browning on the stove... and then the final product. Make all the jokes you want about beans being the “Magical Fruit” - but I swear by ‘em!

Rayanna Zaragoza, loving the fall crisp air, will step back into Lily's shoes

Carlenne: Have you ever seen a ghost or had a supernatural encounter?
Rayanna: I don't think I have. But once, during a choir retreat, my friends and I were playing with a Ouija Board and we thought we heard something in the bushes. We all were incredibly freaked out. It was probably our imagination.

Carlenne: Is there anything you cook that you're the "queen" of?
Rayanna: No. I'm an absolutely terrible cook. I eat whatever is made the fastest. Whenever I do try to make something exciting it either results in a horrible mess or a horrible meal.

We certainly hope you'll be able to join us this Thursday at 7p or on Sunday at 2p for the next step in the development of Frybread Queen. For reservations or more information, please click here or check out the flyer above. You may also call 323.667.2000 ext 354 or email us. See you there!
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The Queen Returns to the City of Angels

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After a successful stint at Montana Rep, Carolyn Dunn's Frybread Queen returns to the Autry National Center for its final workshop before its world premiere in March. To get us back into the "frybread state of mind," I asked dramaturg Robert Caisley to share a bit of his experience working on the script in Montana and tell us what we can look forward to during next week's readings:
The experience of the Montana production was invaluable to the development of this play. There's not a single page of my "Production Draft" that isn't marked up beyond comprehension. The script underwent some radical transformations, some great tightening of dialogue, so much clarification of the stories of these four powerful characters. Carolyn took great advantage of being in the rehearsal studio with the actors and director, and there was hardly a day that went by without having a script meeting either before and, oftentimes, after each rehearsal. Even after Carolyn had to fly home and Jere and I kept rehearsing with the cast, I would speak with Carolyn on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis, keeping her up-to-date on moments that we had discovered, continuining to fine tune the dialogue and take care of trouble spots in the text. We actually began a process we now laughingly refer to as "dramaturgy by text." Jere would be working a scene and something might not be working quite right. He would turn to me as dramaturg and I would text Carolyn the page number, the character and line reference, and what the problem was. Usually within minutes, Carolyn would respond with a solution that I could immediately pass along to Jere to test out in rehearsal. It was an extremely efficient method and we were able to save so much rehearsal time this way.
Carolyn and I are now back into the script, working to polish the text for next week's readings. We're making some significant changes to the final scene and we're working through a very long list of notes from the Montana experience - things we simply would not have know without the benefit of that developmental production.
For those who last saw the show in 2009 during our Festival of New Plays, you'll be in for quite a treat as the script is much stronger and clearer then it's ever been. Of course, we still need your feedback so I certainly hope you're making plans to attend either our November 4th reading at 7p or our November 7th reading at 2p. If you RSVP for either day by 5p on Monday, November 1st, you will receive free admission to the Autry's American Indian Arts Marketplace which is being held all day on November 6 and 7. Please click here for more information. We hope to see you there!
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Who Says There’s No Theatre in LA?

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A guest post by Native Voices Production Coordinator Caroline Chang
There was the looming chance of rain Monday night , but luckily the skies cleared up over the Autry National Center as members of the LA theatre community dropped in for the LA Stage Alliance Ovation Nominees Announcements.

For those of you who don’t know, the LA Stage Alliance is an organization which brings together and builds awareness and support for performing arts organizations in Los Angeles. They host the annual Ovation Awards which is the “only peer-judged theatre awards in Los Angeles, created to recognize excellence in theatrical performance, production and design in the Greater Los Angeles area”. And Native Voices had the honor of being asked to host this year’s Ovation Nominee Announcements!

It was a great night with old theatre friends, and new ones. As well as a great reception by Cheers Catering before the event. The energy was calm but electrifying – ah, so that’s where the thunder and lightning went! Yes, a clear night sky, conversations about theatre, and bruschetta and cracked pepper hummus. What could be better?

The announcements opened with a presentation by Native Voices. David Burton, Managing Director, kicked it off with thanks from and info about The Autry and our new exciting exhibitions up and coming (come see Siqueiros, its fabulous!). Then next stepped up Tonantzin Carmelo and Kalani Queypo, who both effervescently introduced Native Voices to the audience of theatre professionals. What a great opportunity and such apt folks to do the job!

The next day, David remarked to me that “Native Voices at the Autry was delighted and proud to be the host venue for this year’s ovation nominee announcements. This event was a wonderful reminder of the great talent and diversity reflected in the Los Angeles theatre community. We are happy that NV has long contributed to that diversity and grateful that we had the opportunity to share our accomplishments and future goals with our LA theatre family. Many of the new friendships forged last night could lead to some interesting or surprising collaborations in the future. Wouldn’t that be cool?" I think so! Oh, the possibilities!

The rest of the evening went smoothly as winners from last year’s Ovation Awards announced the nominees. It was exciting to be surrounded by that much talent! And congrats to the nominees! Man, it was terrific year in theatre, don’t you agree?

Special thanks to Terrence McFarland, Doug Clayton, Neal Spinler, Phloe Pontaoe and to everyone at the LA Stage Alliance for putting together a fabulous evening! This year’s Ovation Awards Ceremony will be hosted by the Cabrillo Music Center and the Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Plaza on January 17th, 2011.

And a final thought from Caroline:
Theatre in LA is scattered, in pockets of the city here and there with no veritable “Broadway” (as much as those have tried to make it happen). Like much of the cultural activity in LA, you won’t know it until you stumble upon, it hits you in the face, and you take a chance, but it will dazzle you and find a way to connect with you, and you’ll come back wanting more (trust me).

And the performing arts community is big and small at the same time, much like the city itself. Its full of the experimental, contemporary, traditional, avant-garde, classics, remakes, stars and up and comers, the good, the bad, and the ugly (and the beautiful, its LA of course!).

It’s all over the map. Somebody is always doing theatre in LA.
And that’s how we like it.
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Capping Off Diane Glancy Week

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Photo by Lost in Scotland
As you know, last week we kicked off our 2010 First Look Series with a workshop and reading of Diane Glancy's newest play The Bird House. We've developed and produced three plays by Diane in the past and are extremely excited to begin yet another journey with her. In addition, we held an in-house reading of yet another new play by Diane, The Catch, which she's creating in collaboration with long-time Native Voices' Costume Designer Christina Wright.

Needless to say, it was a busy, busy week for Native Voices. The script we began our Wednesday evening workshop with for Bird House was completely re-written for our Thursday afternoon rehearsal and the public reading of the play held later that night was actually only the second time it had been heard out loud in its entirety. Talk about first look!

On Friday, we had to place our Bird thoughts aside in order to explore the depths of The Catch, a play based on the ledger- book drawings of Bear's Heart who was imprisoned at Fort Marion, Florida during The Trail of Tears. We assembled an incredible group of artists to aid Diane and Chris as they continue their examination of voice, clothing, and Native education. Many thanks to Vincent Scott who joined us from the National Museum of the American Indian to direct the piece as well as Kim Walters from the Southwest Musuem of the American Indian who hosted the event. Of course, I have to mention our lovely cast of actors - Robert Greygrass, Kalani Queypo, Adeye Sahran, DeLanna Studi, and Noah Watts - for their creative energies and valuable insights.

Throughout the week, Diane was so gracious with everyone's comments and feedback - surprisingly, not every playwright is like that. But what Native Voices is able to do for its artists is create a safe place that inspires creativity; an open space where we can all be heard. And it is within these spaces that the magic of play development takes place.
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Spotlight on THE BIRD HOUSE

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In anticipation of this Thursday's reading of Diane Glancy's The Bird House, I thought you'd like to meet the creative team and cast of the play. Since a few of them have been featured in our blog in the past, I decided to ask them a few personal questions so we can get to know them a bit better. I also asked them to share their favorite summer pictures with us so you're really in for a treat. ;-D

Carlenne: What inspires you?
Diane: Travel- because I pick up voices / ideas / images when I'm on the road by myself.

C: If you weren't a theatre artist, what would you be? Do you have a second calling?
D: My second calling- a minister. Or a writer of sermons. I like to think about Christianity.

C: Fill in the blank: It's not theatre if it's not _________.
D: ... sparked by language.

In Santa Monica with Councilman Rosendahl and my wife Dawn before VCPA's presentation of Othello

Carlenne: What inspires you?
Stephan: A great idea!

C: If you weren't a theatre artist, what would you be? Do you have a second calling?
S: Theatre IS my second calling.

C: Fill in the blank: It's not theatre if it's not _________.
S: ... spontaneous.

Carlenne: What inspires you?
Bryan: The unknown.

There's an old saying: "Write what you know." Which always seemed to me to be terrible advice. If I know something, then I know how I feel about it, and what I think about it... So what's the fun in that? Where is the discovery? Shakespeare's greatest plays aren't set in England; they're set in classical Rome, in Denmark, in Italy, on strange islands... I'm inspired by my own curiosity about people, about history and about the great sweep of human experience. As a playwright, my plays were about the Dust Bowl, about World War I, about post-partum depression... I was always intrigued about finding a way into a foreign land or different time, about finding those areas of common humanity.

This is what I love about working with Native Voices. As one of the whitest guys on the planet (I am from Orange County) I get to work with theater artists who may have a different cultural experience than I do. But the plays often deal with universal themes (Where did we come from? Where do we go when we die? And exactly what is it that happens in between?). The way different characters attempt to solve these unsolvable dilemmas of life may vary, but the dilemmas are the same.

We are alike, but different. But alike.

This is what I find fascinating and wonderful about human beings, and it brings me back to the theater over and over again.

C: If you weren't a theatre artist, what would you be?
B: When I was in high school, I took some sort of aptitude test that was supposed to help you identify a career. What would I be? I filled in the bubbles and awaited anxiously. The answer: Park Ranger.

I think I would be a pretty good park ranger, actually. I'd take people around, tell them stories. Encourage them to look at the stars and check out the different kinds of plants and the landscape, feel its history, really see the world around them, and wonder at it all.

Now that I think about it, isn't that what a theater artist does?

C: Do you have a second calling in life?
B: Teaching.

I guess it's in my blood. My mother taught grade school in Colorado, and her aunt taught three generations of kids in Ness City, Kansas. Once she started teaching the grand-kids of her first class, she knew it was time to quit.

Some of the best times and some of the hardest times in my life have come in trying to communicate something of meaning to a group of people.

C: Fill in the blank: It's not theatre if it's not _________.
B: ... telling me a story.

Telling a story may sound easy. It's not. But man - when it happens, you feel it.
One Sunday morning, my wife and I were driving home from the grocery store. We were listening to a story from "This American Life" on the radio. When we got home, we couldn't get out of the car. We were too engrossed in the radio program. The frozen foods were melting but we didn't care. We sat for twenty minutes in a sweltering car because we had to know what happened next.

That's the power of story!

Carlenne: What inspires you?
Randy: Great collaborators, smart writing and laughter in the process.

C: If you weren't a theatre artist, what would you be? 
R: I have so many hats– this is like a trick question. I am a lover, a friend, a husband, a motivator, an administrator, a producer, a brother, a son, an uncle, a cousin and I love being with my dog.

C: Do you have a second calling in life?
R: Nope – this is what I am meant to do in life.

C: Fill in the blank: It's not theatre if it's not ______________. 
R: A live event, an intimate act, that provokes, celebrates and examines the paradoxes that make us human.

Carlenne: What inspires you? 
Ellen: Passionate people who love what they do, watching the underdog succeed. Do you know the short film, The Butterfly Circus? Nick Vujicic plays a man without arms or legs in a side show during the Depression. How he finds his own self-worth is a very inspiring story.

C: If you weren't a theatre artist, what would you be? Do you have a second calling in life?
E: Even before I was an actor, I was a singer. That’s the earliest calling I can remember… making up songs while I was swinging on the swings. If I hadn’t gone into the arts, I would most likely have become a counselor. I like helping people succeed, and in many ways, that’s also part of what I do now.

C: Fill in the blank: It's not theatre if it doesn’t ____________.
E: ... move you in some way.
In San Diego at Native Voices 2010 Playwrights Retreat
Carlenne: What inspires you?
Carla-Rae: I am inspired by my FAITH in One Who is bigger than me. It is through that FAITH that I am inspired to keep pressing toward the goal of being all I can be in everything I put my hand to do. I am inspired by using the gifts and talents I have been given to help others believe "if Carla-Rae can do it, than I can do it." Whatever their personal "It" is. I am inspired when I see others reach there goals and I'm inspired by the support I receive from family, friends, and fans. I am inspired by the simple beauty in the little and the big things of life. Of course, I could go on and on, but simply put I am inspired to be a blessing and to bring joy to those whom my life touches. Certainly, all of this inspiration is applied to my work as an actor.

C: If you weren't a theatre artist, what would you be? Do you have a second calling in life?
CR: It is interesting that you ask this question. Just the other day my husband and I were having a discussion. We were remembering taking an aptitude test in high school which was to determine what career direction we would take. Mine determined I would be in the Performing Arts or in some form of Social work. I have a heart for people, so if I wasn't acting, I would probably be spearheading some cause to help mankind.

C: Fill in the blank: It's not theatre if it's not ______________. 
FUN. Whether we are young or old, what we "do" has to bring enjoyment or "what's the point."

Be sure to make your reservations to see The Bird House, Thursday, October 7 at 7p. Click here for more info. We'll see you there!
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A Playwright's Inspiration

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The Hotel Eden by Joseph Cornell
From the moment I met playwright Diane Glancy, I have been fascinated by what inspires her to write. From old photographs, to a heart-shaped rock, to a car ride down Highway 2, the stories behind her plays are just as interesting as the plays themselves. Next week, we will begin workshopping our fourth play by Diane, The Bird House, which features a role written specifically for Artistic Director Randy Reinholz. 

So, we put our frybread-filled thoughts on pause for a week or two and turn our attention towards Ropesville, Texas where the heat consumes you, the poverty overwhelms you, and hopelessness is a way of life. It's a grim play but, at the heart of it, is the sense that we will be able to overcome anything that's thrown our way.

Below, in her own words, is what inspired Diane to write the play that will kick off our 2010 First Look Series and it's my hope that these words will inspire you to join us as we begin our journey into The Bird House.
My work usually comes in the process of travel. I was on my way from Kansas to San Diego in 2008. I stopped at my son’s in Texas. The landscape description comes from his place— the ground dried and cracked, the alkali traces, the short, brittle weeds. There’s always baggage to the land. If I stand in a place long enough, situations occur to me.
At the end of the play, I have the following:   
Gratefulness to Native Voices at the Autry for the Naomi Iizuka workshop during the LMDA Conference from which the idea of two women living in a church came.
The idea for the eventual use of videography in the play came from the video work in Craig Wolf’s The Merry Chase, which I saw at the LMDA Conference in 2008. In fact, it was the genesis of the play along with a conversation with Randy Reinholz.
The title came from the actual bird houses on Jean and Randy’s back patio. It was where Randy and I talked one morning about aging, stroke, and puzzlements of the Christian faith— issues probably no one wants to look at.
At the moment, I’m interested in miniaturist theater, an invented term that means a play constricted in a small space. Nailed down. Distilled. For what purpose? Artistic exploration? The downturn of our economy? The way the term, cutback, continually is in the news? The way aging seems to hedge one’s life? (I can’t do what I used to).
I don’t mean miniaturist theater in terms of a short play. The Bird House is a regular one-act. But a miniaturistic play. Though not stated directly, its undercurrent is Native American heritage, a minority culture small in number in relationship to others. It also often is confined to a reservation.
For this play, I’ve been influence by Joseph Cornell, an American assemblage artist of small boxes with a proximity to Surrealism. He’s the author of contained worlds. I want to make a contained world of words.
I want large moments contained in smallness— I want to get as close as possible to the claustrophobic while maintaining a play with very large issues— abandonment, poverty, stroke, death.
I want a rowdy play. A small, quiet, rowdy play with huge, noisy, oversized issues.
I want it to seem the actors hardly can move. I want them hemmed with the smallest stitches by the sharpest needle.
Pierre Reverdy defined surrealism as “a juxtaposition of two more or less distant realities.” In this play, I want the distant realities to be not two but three characters who have enormous distances, yet live together on one small stage.
I want to see their restricted movements. (Even if this play grows with development, I hope it remains a minimalist piece on some level, meaning movement and action take place within a small space that is no space, to maintain the undercurrent of restriction in which the limitation and compression spark a dramatic friction).
I want it to seem like dialogue contained in small boxes of metaphor, with the largest issues held in the tiniest containments— as if the characters were tied together with very short ropes. I want to see the word, diminishment, as a lovely horizon.
In the end, as I travel, I try to catch the flocks of words that lift from passing fields.
The Bird House will be presented at the Autry National Center on Thursday, October 7 at 7p. It will be directed by Stephan Wolfert and feature dramaturgy by Bryan Davidson with a cast that includes Carla-Rae, Ellen Dostal, and Randy Reinholz. For more information, please click here.
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On the Road with our Executive Director

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As you know, our beloved Frybread Queen began her reign at Montana Rep last weekend and, of course, our Artistic Director, Executive Director, and Managing Director (Randy, Jeannie, and David) all made the trip to Missoula to witness her debut. Caroline, Jenn, and I didn't want to be left out so we insisted that Jeannie send us a few pictures from the road (to the left you'll see one of the yummy lunches she made us drool over) and give us something we can share with all of you. Her entry is below. Enjoy the read!
What an opening!
First of all, Carolyn has written an extraordinary play – a love story, a ghost story, a story full of surprise twists and turns that kept the audience on the edge of their seats. The characters are deep, their relationships complex, and the secrets they keep – dark and powerful!
We’ve had such a wonderful time working with Carolyn over the past three years as she’s shaped and crafted her story (originally a novel) into this play. We’ve had numerous workshops and staged readings with exceptionally talented actresses, directors and dramaturges providing Carolyn with the opportunity to hear her words in workshops and with an audience. Getting the play up on its feet was the next step in our development process so we asked Carolyn to continue her work revising her play with Jere Hodgin as director and Robert Caisley as dramaturg. 
One of the main things we wanted to explore was the presence of the dearly departed son, father, husband and lover – Paul – who we never see on stage, but who is there from the beginning. All four of the women feel him, see him or are possessed by him. This developmental co-production would give us the opportunity to fine tune the script and, for the set, lighting, and sound designers, to create those things that would make Paul real not only for the actresses but for the audience as well.
Jere cast the play with four superb actresses. Jane Lind gave a tour de force performance as Jessie, the tough Navajo grandmother who's left to pick up the pieces of her life while trying to protect her granddaughter Lily who was played with rebellious glee by Tiffany Miewald. Lily Gladstone as Carlisle, the good Cherokee auntie with the sweet façade, tries to console the devastated Lily and keep the peace while Arigon Starr as Annalee, the stepmom and outsider, clashes with Jessie over who’s to blame for Paul’s sorrows. Possessed by her own demons and regrets, Annalee, an Oklahoma Creek lawyer who is dying of lung cancer, desperately clings to life and her claim on Lily, determined to rid the family of its ghosts. Each of the performers was pitch perfect. Their interactions with each other were honest and truthful and their reactions to Paul’s presence made him all the more real to the audience.
Scenic designer Johanna Josephian gave us a realistic set complete with a creaky screen door, a comfy old rocker, a wobbly picnic table and an old fashioned two-seater glider that moved on its own whenever Paul wanted to make his presence felt. She was aided by lighting designer Mark Dean and sound designer Jayson L. Ferguson who continued to up the ante each time Paul was “on stage” with swirling lights, a flicker, an ominous glow and the sounds of breath, wind, thunder, a slamming screen door or subtle music. It all worked and it all made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Judging by the way the audience leaned forward in their seats whenever they felt Paul’s presence - Paul was definitely in the theater and on that stage!
I’d like to thank everyone involved with this production from its earliest readings to this wonderful production. I’d also like to congratulate Montana Rep and the University of Montana for their commitment to Native theater and the Native voice. We are proud to have had the encouragement and support of UM President George M. Dennison, Provost Royce C. Engstrom, Dean Stephen Kalm, and The College of Visual and Performing Arts.  
We are especially thankful to The School of Theatre & Dance and its Director Mark Dean, and to Montana Rep and its Artistic Director Greg Johnson. We’ve had such a wonderful time collaborating with them this year and they did such a great job getting the word out and getting a Native American audience in to see the show – many of whom attended the invited preview performance and after party at the beautiful Payne Family Native American Center on campus. They had lots of help from the American Indian Student Services and its Director Fredrika Hunter, and The Department of Native American Studies. We were thrilled when a Native student commented during the talk back that this was the first play she’d ever been to and that she came because of the storyline and the chance to see four Native women on stage!  
We look forward to the next steps on our way to the world premiere of The Frybread Queen next March at The Autry. Join us on our journey when we do our final workshop and readings of The Frybread Queen on November 4th and 7th during the American Indian Arts Marketplace at the Autry. Carolyn, Jere and Rob will work with a local cast to iron out the last few issues with the text. Check out the Autry Calendar for more information on our November readings and email to make your reservations today.
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Insights from our Producing Artistic Director

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Remember back in July when I said we like to spend the end of our summers evaluating our year and dreaming up of what the next season will bring us? One of the exercises Executive Director Jean Bruce Scott gave us to get that conversation rolling was a writing assignment about what Native Voices' message should be. Needless to say, that's a pretty big assignment and, of course, it's an on-going discussion we have throughout the year. But, putting pen to paper is no easy task and we each procrastinated on our responses (sorry Jeannie!). But, I'm happy to say, eventually we were all able to cross "NV message" off our lists of "Things to Do" and have become a stronger team because of it (thanks Jeannie!). Today, I'd like to share what Artistic Director Randy Reinholz wrote for this assignment which I think perfectly synthesizes who we are as a company and is a great way to begin our 11th season at The Autry National Center:
Native Voices is a Native theater company with a national & international profile. We are a combination of community-centered artists practicing an art form with national significance. While other small arts organizations might call themselves community-centered, describing a geographical center; Native Voices’ community center is an intersection of ethnic identity, issues of National sovereignty for Native people, combining the self-representation of Native people in art, literature and history. 
Native Voices provides a forum for Native playwrights to have access to the top talent in the US theatre in the development process for their scripts to tell Native stories from a Native perspective, showcasing exceptional Native and non-native theatre artists. It is a political act to put living contemporary Native people on stage to combat the once common perception in the US that Native people are vanishing or extinct. Theatre is the perfect art form to demonstrate that Native people are vital, contemporary, and that we have a complex unique story to tell.
Since 1994, we have been a text-based theatre company meaning that our work begins on the page. To assist the playwright, past development processes have included dramaturgical work; access to cultural advisors; stage readings; workshop stagings of scripts; improvisational rehearsals based on a written text; the addition of traditional and non- traditional music and dance added to text through improvisation and at other times based solely on the written text to expand the reach and depth of the story. All of these development processes are to support the playwright’s vision. 
To date we have produced 14 professional theatre productions; the 15th show opening September 17, 2010 at Montana Rep. We always work at UNION standards of professionalism and compensation in an effort to place value on the work. We have produced a number of radio plays and given development workshop opportunities to over 80 scripts with playwrights from more than 25 different Native nations. 
It is our goal that a Native Voices’ production be another step in the development process so that playwrights can experience an audience watching the show and continue the re-writing process. We hope to see subsequent productions and publication of scripts developed or produced at Native Voices. 
As multiculturalism is no longer a fad in US art but a standard of inclusion and excellence for any performing arts organization that wants to be seen as credible, Native Voices has also taken on the role of matchmaker. We accept the responsibility of matching professional Native artists with culturally specific needs and opportunities to the greater professional theatre and entertainment industries. To that end, writers, performers and other collaborative theatre artists that have worked with Native Voices over the past 16 years are working more consistently in professional theatre and entertainment industries.
In summary we: develop plays, develop Native playwrights, develop collaborative theatre artists through on-going professional opportunities to hone the craft on stage and during artists’ workshops, develop and expand the cannon of Native American plays with more than 80 plays workshopped, provide a service to the greater professional theatre and entertainment industries by identifying possible collaborating artists for meritorious opportunities in the profession, and provide a nexus of information for professional Native theater artists and the contemporary issues that concern them
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Prepping the Queen for Her Garden City Debut

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From the City of Angels to the Garden City of Missoula, Montana, The Frybread Queen is well on her way to a fantastic opening at the U of M. Before I take a week off from the blog-o-sphere, I wanted to acknowledge the team that's getting our queen ready for her grand debut.
Production Staff
Director: Jere Hodgin
Dramaturg: Robert Caisley
Costume Designer: Laura Alvarez
Lighting Designer: Mark Dean
Scenic Designer: Johanna Josephian
Sound Designer: Jayson Ferguson
Stage Manager: Deb Voss

Annalee Walker Hayne: Arigon Starr
Carlisle Emmanuel Burns: Lily Gladstone
Lily Savannah Santiago Burns: Tiffany Meiwald
Jessie Burns: Jane Lind

For those lucky enough to be in the area, the show opens on September 17th and runs until the 26th. For more information please visit

And a special thanks to Carolyn Dunn and John Kenneth DeBoer (Assistant Professor of Acting/ Directing at the University of Montana) for their help in obtaining the info above and the images below.

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In the words of Dr. Dunn...

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From Dr. Carolyn Dunn's dissertation Carrying the Fire Home: Performing Nation, Performing Identity, Indigenous Diaspora, and Home in the Poems, Songs, and Performances of Arigon Starr, Joy Harjo, and Gayle Ross:
What does it mean to be an Indian living far away from the place where they emerged? How can these words connect other American Indians living far away from home, from family, from community, to not only “home”, but the adopted “home” as well?
This project started as I asked myself questions of my own work as a poet, playwright, storyteller, and musician. My American Indian blood comes from the Creek, Cherokee, Seminole, Choctaw, and Tunica-Biloxi tribes of the southeast, from Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama. My creative work has focused on the myths, legends, and ceremonial life of the ancestors and of the contemporary tribal life of my family, relatives, and friends. I grew up listening to the family stories and the creation stories of how we came to be, and how we traced our lineage all the way back to the Old Country: the Old Country being the old national, tribal boundaries and into the new nations after Removal.
As I began my own journey as a poet, as a playwright, as a storyteller and a singer, learning from family and friends, I knew that as a second generation Californian, the Old Country to us was not another continent but a place that was just east of our modern homeland of Los Angeles, California. The stories of “home” became a lifeline for me, a connection to my immediate past and a connection to my ancestors who survived the unimaginable so that I could live. So, I began to write about what I knew of my family stories, with the knowledge that while I was an Indian from California, I wasn’t a California Indian. I came from somewhere else.
As I write this, our favorite Ph.D. is currently nestled in Missoula, Montana rehearsing for the developmental production of her play, The Frybread Queen, which is being co-produced by Native Voices and Montana Rep. Before she left, I had the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the play as a way of whetting your appetite for the deliciousness that is frybread! And if you'd like to hear more about her exploits in her own words, feel free to journey on over to her personal blog, Tales from a Hollywood Indian.

Carlenne Lacosta: What inspired the creation of Frybread Queen?
Carolyn Dunn: Well, I wanted to write a play about four women that was about their relationships with one another. I miss the old days of feminist theater, you know, in the vein of La Mama and Maria Fornes and Spiderwoman Theater, all of those folks out of New York. I had four very strong women in mind to play these roles, and basically this was a play written for four very strong actresses as women who were afraid to let go of their secrets.

CL: For us non-Natives out there, what is frybread and what is its significance in your play? 
CD: Now that is such a loaded question, Carlenne! Frybread is not exactly the healthiest thing around but man is it yummy! It's basically bread dough that's fried in lard or grease until golden brown. You can eat it like a tostada, with beans, cheese, hamburger, mutton, deer meat, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and salsa, or as a dessert with honey or powdered sugar. Like with every recipe, there are many different ways to make frybread, usually varying by tribe or where one grew up, and I liked the idea of using frybread as a metaphor for cultural differences between families that are made up of differing tribes.

CL: How would you say the play has evolved since its first workshop with Native Voices?
CD: It has changed throughout the years, I think that it's gotten tighter and more suspenseful. It plays with the idea that secrets can destroy families and especially secrets in haunted houses. But at the basic core of the play is the idea that love and humor can heal us. And food too. Comfort food. I mean, a good piece of frybread can help you overcome anything. Except heart disease or diabetes. But I throw in a little twist, like adding whole wheat flour to the mix.

CL: What are you most looking forward to in regards to this upcoming production in Montana?
CD: I'm really looking forward to seeing how my vision of the play lines up with our director's. Jere Hodgin is so much fun to work with and this is the second piece I've worked with him on. Jere understands the generational issues that are dealt with in The Frybread Queen and he has championed the play since early on. I also am looking forward to seeing how audiences will react to humor in the face of overwhelming tragedy.

CL: If you could sum up your play in one word, what would it be?
CD: Greasy. (hey, you asked!)

CL: What would you say is your greatest achievement?
CD: Being a mom.

Check back next week for more on Frybread Queen's time in Montana. And, on a partially related note, Native Voices will be holding auditions the weekend of September 25th for our First Look Series, which Frybread Queen is a part of. Please click here or contact Caroline Chang for more information.

Till next time!
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Our history with frybread

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Those familiar with Native Voices may also be familiar with The Frybread Queen as well as its creator Carolyn Dunn. Carolyn has been a long-time friend of Native Voices having participated in our past retreat and festivals as both a playwright and actor (most recently as an actor in Time Immemorial alongside Kalani Queypo) as well as in our collaborations with Native American Public Telecommunications as a director.

Now, if one were to glance at our 2010-2011 Season, it may seem like we've taken our friendship with Carolyn to the "Fatal Attraction" level; some may even say we should go ahead and nickname this season "The Carolyn Year." We are, after all, featuring not one, but three presentations of her latest play The Frybread Queen: once in Montana next month and twice at the Autry National Center in November and March. Why the redundancy, you ask? Doesn't Native Voices have other plays to choose from? Well, yes, we do have other plays on our list but our persistence with Frybread Queen has nothing to do with a lack of options. Our relentlessness with the play has to do with the fact that we are a development company committed to seeing Frybread Queen fully realized on stage.

Our journey with The Frybread Queen actually began back in 2007 when Carolyn was invited to participate in our Playwrights Retreat at the University of California, Los Angeles. After that, we featured the play during our 2008 First Look Series with the lovely ladies pictured above in the roles of Annalee, Jessie, Lily, and Carlisle. After hearing our audiences' feedback on the play, we decided to pursue the work further and gave Carolyn a slot during our 2009 Retreat and Festival which was held in San Diego and Los Angeles. It was there that Carolyn first teamed with Robert Caisley as a dramaturg. Rob, who has been with Native Voices since its inception, brought the play to his good friend, Jere Hodgin, the Head of Acting/ Directing at the University of Montana. Jere and Rob will spearhead The Frybread Queen's Developmental Production at Montana Rep with Native Voices as co-producers then the play will return to the Autry National Center for a presentation during November's American Indian Arts Marketplace all leading to its Equity production at the Wells Fargo Theatre in March of next year.

Needless to say, it takes a lot of workshops to prep a play for the stage and The Frybread Queen is no exception. But because we unwaveringly committed ourselves to Carolyn as an artist and because we dedicated ourselves to this play and to these characters, we're now thisclose to seeing this story that we've lived with for three years finally come to life. So, where some may view our upcoming season as one of redundancy, I actually see it as a mark of accomplishment. It's a testament to Native Voices' tenacity and success as a development company and, let's be honest, we couldn't do any less for a queen, now could we?

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So many opportunities, so little time

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First off, apologies for being a day late on this post! Seems like I'm a bit behind the times but I'm here now and that's what's important, right? ;-D Since our last post, a few opportunities have come across my desk that I've been wanting to share with you.

Native Voices 2011 Call for Scripts
Please click on the link above for info regarding our 2011 developmental opportunities and our current submission guidelines and process. Although we accept scripts year round, all work received by September 15, 2010 will be considered for our 2011 Playwrights Retreat and Festival of New Plays as well as our 2011 First Look Series. All work submitted after September 15th will be considered for our 2012 developmental opportunities. We accept completed full-length plays by Native American and First Nation playwrights. If you have any questions or concerns regarding our Call for Scripts, please feel free to email me directly.

The Loop
If you're a writer, I highly recommend that you join The Loop - a social network geared specifically towards "playwrights, librettists, composers and anyone else who is actively working on creating their life as a theatre artist." Think of it as a Facebook for writers. With The Loop, you'll be able to connect with an extraordinary amount of fellow writers and access countless submission opportunities. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may remember me mentioning this very same network back in August - see, it's so great I'm giving it a second recommendation! Just visit the link above, click on "Social Network," create your profile, and start exploring! (and while you're at it, add me as your friend!)

Writing can be a lonely game at times. Good thing playwright Adam Szymkowicz has taken it upon himself to interview 200+ playwrights and post the transcripts on his blog! I'd highly suggest bookmarking this remarkable resource and visiting it whenever you have a free moment. I find it incredibly helpful to hear from those who are in my shoes to see how they've overcome the difficulties they've had to face and what inspires them to push onward. Some of my favorite playwrights featured on Adam's blog are Luis Alfaro who directed Tombs of the Vanishing Indian during our 2009 First Look Series, Jacqueline Goldfinger who was one of our dramaturgs at our 2008 Playwrights Retreat, Lin-Manuel Miranda (aka my current crush) who I just saw in The Pantages production of In the Heights, and Caridad Svich who is just about one of the sweetest artists I have ever met.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival
OSF is one of the oldest professional non-profit theatres in the nation. Although the theatre is intrinsically linked to Shakespeare's cannon, the company is also dedicated to "the cultural richness of the United States" and boasts "the inclusion of a diversity of people, ideas and cultures." To that end, Oregon Shakes offers a variety of fellowships, apprenticeships, internships, and residencies that artists of color are strongly encouraged to apply for. Deemed the FAIR Experience, these programs are designed "to foster a collaborative exchange of knowledge, skills and perspectives between experiences professionals and the next generation of theatre practitioners." Take a look at what they have to offer and give it a try - you never know what's waiting for you around the bend.

Next week, I'll have some info about Frybread Queen and hopefully I'll be able to keep my days straight!

Till then!

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The Planning Stages

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Before I delve into this week's post, I just wanted to thank everyone who graciously provided me with feedback on last week's entry. I'm truly grateful for the time everyone took to jot down their ideas and look forward to creating this blog along with your help. Just like there's no "i' in team, there's no "i" in blog so please keep your suggestions coming! Feel free to post your comments below or send them to me directly ( Thanks in advance!

Now, on to the topic at hand. Some of you may have noticed that Native Voices is oddly quiet during this time of year. Why, it was just last month that we were seen at San Diego State University, La Jolla Playhouse, and the Autry National Center for our 2010 Festival of New Plays. Since then, there haven't been any posts about our plays, no contests for free tickets, not even a peep about an artist we're working with. Well, that's because at the end of every season, Native Voices likes to take a step back from our work to examine our successes, areas we can improve in, and strategies we'd like to adopt for the upcoming year. As Artistic Director Randy Reinholz puts it:
"Our goal remains clear - we want to serve the writers and collaborative artists in the process of developing new work - to that end we always review our processes at Native Voices looking for ways to be inclusive, clear, generous and evaluative of our process, and the new play development across the country."
To that end, July and August have been designated as Native Voices' planning months. We've spent the last few weeks discussing the company's mission and philosophy and have been thinking of new ways to increase our efficiency and effectiveness. In fact, the genesis of last week's post arose from those very conversations. Not only do we have a new look to our blog but we're also analyzing our website and social networks to ensure we're using each outlet effectively. We know you don't want to be bombarded with sales pitches at every turn so we're figuring out better ways to disseminate that information to you. We've also re-written our Call for Scripts to include a more detailed description of what our selected playwrights have to look forward to in regards to developmental opportunities and personnel support and have had numerous discussions regarding our play selection process.

 I'm also very pleased to announce that we've confirmed the chair of our 2011 National Reading Panel, Julie Jensen, who recently served as a dramaturg during our Festival of New Plays.

We have a lot of exciting activity planned for our 2010-2011 Season including a development 

production of The Frybread Queen by Carolyn Dunn at Montana Repertory Theatre as well as two public presentations of the play during the American Indian Arts Marketplace at the Autry all leading to its Equity production in the spring of next year. We'll also feature Diane Glancy's new play, The Bird House, this fall for our First Look Series and will be selecting the plays for our 2011 Playwrights Retreat and Festival of New Plays at the end of the year.

Needless to say, more information about each of these events will be posted as the date of their presentations near. If you have something specific you want to hear about or have a particular question you'd like to ask one of our artists, please let me know and I'd be more than happy to oblige. Remember, we're building this blog together, so I need all the help you can possibly provide!

Our next post will be in two weeks - hopefully I'll have more info about the Montana Rep production of Frybread Queen to share with you. If not, perhaps I can wrangle a frybread recipe out of Carolyn to post on here. ;-D

Till then!
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"inspiring creativity"

About a month ago, former NV Literary Associate (and now Production Assistant) Pamela Sevilla and I traveled to Alberta, Canada to attend the LMDA (Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas) Annual Conference at The Banff Centre. The LMDA is a consortium of theatre artists whose mission is to "affirm the role of dramaturg, to expand the possibilities of the field to other media and institutions, and to cultivate, develop and promote the function of dramaturgy and literary management." I've been a member of this organization for a number of years and have found that a lot of my work is informed by the conversations LMDA has generated and since Native Voices is devoted to new play development, the conference was the perfect place to reflect on our process and discover new ways of improving our work.

A few things about this particular conference:

1. It was located in one of the most breath-taking sites imaginable: The Banff Centre which is situated within the Canadian Rockies. The centre's mission is to inspire creativity and it certainly lives up to its promise! Every morning Pam and I would walk to the Vistas Dining Room for breakfast and marvel at how lucky we were to be surrounded by such a peaceful scene. Actually, the photo above was taken from our breakfast table. Can you imagine how hopeful your day would seem if you had that sight to wake up to every morning?

2. This year marked LMDA's 25th Anniversary and to celebrate, the conference committee decided on a retreat-style format that perfectly complemented our setting. Instead of having key note speakers or a group of panelists, conference delegates were able to pose session topics at the top of each day in an Open Space format facilitated by Misha Glouberman. Misha's approach to this "un-conference" allowed attendees to connect with one another on a more personal level as ideas and interests were constantly flowing throughout the rooms and constantly linking new people to each other. Everyone's ideas were valued and no opinions were taken for granted. 

3. To represent the indigenous perspective on the topics at hand, LMDA invited First Nations playwright Tara Beagan (Ntlaka'pamux) to attend the conference as a guest. Tara was recently the playwright-in-residence at Native Earth Performing Arts and, as you may recall, Native Voices presented a scene from her play Miss Julie: Sheh'mah alongside Stone Soup Theatre this past May. To have an artist on-site who openly acknowledged the original caretakers of the land we were on and to be so open about such controversial issues as race and censorship was really refreshing. It seems as if Banff gave everyone the freedom to let their guards down in order to freely exchange ideas and concerns they would have otherwise been too wary to bring up. 

So, all of this to say, I've returned from Canada with a renewed sense of purpose and mission not only for myself as an artist but for Native Voices as a company. My mantra for this upcoming season is one of transparency: as Gotthold Lessing (the father of dramaturgy) used to say, "For me the greatest beauty lies in the greatest clarity." I'm determined to return to my original purpose of this blog which was to "discover what makes NV tick" ... to pull "away the wizard's curtain and [expose] all the behind-the-scenes minutiae we've worked so hard to conceal." 

In addition, I'd like to set up this blog as a forum for other artists to engage in a conversation about what interests them. What would you like to hear about? What questions do you have to ask? What answers do you have to offer? One of the things I learned from the LMDA Conference is that we learn best when we learn from each other and I'm incredibly eager to hear what you have to teach me. Of course, that only works if we're able to hear from each other so I encourage you to post your comments here without fear of judgement or anything else of the sort. This is an open forum led by you, our readers.

Lastly, I do not claim to be an expert in Native theatre or new play development. What I am is a theatre artist and an audience member with an insatiable curiosity and an open mind. Perhaps, together, we can discover new avenues of thought and journey towards a greater understanding of ourselves and of each other. 

Looking forward to hearing from you!

More images from Banff...

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