Making Our Way Towards the Playwrights Retreat

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Photo courtesy of stumayhew 

There's a saying that goes: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Well, at Native Voices, the journey towards production begins with our National Reading Panel.

Each year we assemble a panel of readers comprised of nationally recognized theatre artists to help us select the array of plays we will develop at our Playwrights Retreat and Festival of New Plays as well as our First Look Series. We are indebted to this group of incredibly talented artists for the careful consideration they give each of our scripts, for the insightful comments they provide us with, and the support they offer our artists.

This year's panel was chaired by Jere Hodgin, the Head of Acting and Directing at the University of Montana. His fellow panelists included Robert Caisley, Head of the Dramatic Writing Program at the University of Idaho; Terry Gomez, playwright; Julie Jensen, playwright; Alan Kilpatrick, Professor of American Indian Studies at San Diego State University; Douglas Langworthy, Literary Manager and Dramaturg at the Denver Center Theatre Company; Brian Quirt, Artistic Director of Nightswimming; Shawn Termin, Cultural Arts Manager and Program Producer of the National Museum of the American Indian; and Sheila Tousey, director. Their full bios appear below.

After much deliberation, we selected the three plays that will be featured at this year's retreat and festival. If you missed it in our last post, the selected plays (and their playwrights) are: 

Tombs of the Vanishing Indian by Marie Clements (Metis)
Time Immemorial by Jack Dalton (Yup'ik) and Allison Warden (Inupiaq)
On the Mangled Beam by Dawn Jamieson

Check out our last blog post for a short description of the three plays. You'll remember Marie Clements from our August post on our First Look Series which also featured Tombs of the Vanishing Indian. Jack Dalton's name should also look familiar as half of the writing team for Raven's Radio Hour, a radio play we produced last summer. He will also be joining Jean this month at the Alaska Native Playwrights Project as a mentor.

The next step in this process is to match each of our playwrights with a professional director and dramaturg and to create a development calendar for each of these scripts. We have a long road ahead of us but we're excited for the steps we have left to take and we hope you'll check back often to take the journey with us.

2010 National Reading Panel

Jere Hodgin (Chair) has produced over 200 productions, many of which were new and premiere works, and his directing career includes more than 175 plays, operas, and musical. For 20 years he was the Producing Artistic Director of Mill Mountain Theatre where he founded the nationally recognized Norfolk Southern New Play Festival. He served as Artistic Director and Co-Producer of Highlands Playhouse in NC and has directed at numerous theatres including Walnut Street Theatre, The Barter Theatre, The Phoenix Theatre, and Wayside Theatre. He has directed new works at Shenandoah Playwright’s Retreat, Missoula Writer’s Colony, and The Phoenix Theatre New Play Festival. He has served as a National Endowment for the Arts site visitor and has been a member of the NEA Creativity Panels multiple years. He has also been a regional panelist for the Virginia Commission for the Arts, as well as theatre panelist for the ID, SC, and NC Arts Commissions. He is a past president of the Southeastern Theatre Conference where he also chaired the Playwriting Committee. He served as Vice-President of the board of The National Alliance for Musical Theatre for which he has been co-chair of New Works and a member of the Festival of New Works committee. He has been a reader and judge for numerous national new play contests and competitions. He is a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, Actor’s Equity Association, Theatre Communications Group, and The National Theatre Conference.

Robert Caisley is Associate Professor of Theatre and Film, and Head of the Dramatic Writing Program at the University of Idaho. He served as Idaho Repertory Theatre’s Artistic Director from 2001- 2004. His play The Lake received its Equity World Premiere at Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre and was subsequently produced at the Mill Mountain Theatre as part of the 2005 Norfolk Southern Festival of New Works. The Lake is next slated for production at New Theatre in Coral Gables, Florida. Other plays include: Kissing (New Theatre, January 2009, previously produced at the Theatre Artists Studio in 2008 and Phoenix Theatre’s 2007 Festival of New Works), The 22-Day Adagio (Mill Mountain Theatre 2004 Norfolk Southern Festival of New Works), Good Clean Fun (developed at the 2008 Great Plains Theatre Conference), and Front (winner of the 1996 Fourth Freedom Forum Peace Play Award; developed at Sundance Writer’s Lab). His numerous short plays include Western Mentality (recently published in Mizna: Journal of Arab-American Literature), The Apology (2009 Northwest Drama Review), and Santa Fe, which was a finalist for the 2004 Heideman Award from Actor’s Theatre of Louisville and originally produced by Stageworks/Hudson as part of the 2005 Play By Play Festival, Hudson, NY. His new play Push was commissioned by Penn State School of Theatre. He has been a long-time friend of Native Voices since its inception and served as the chair of its National Reading Panel in 2009.

Terry Gomez (Comanche) is a published and produced playwright, writer, director, actor, educator, and painter. Her play Inter-Tribal has been produced at The Public Theater, New York City. Other produced work includes: Tobacco Leaves, Numunu Waiipunu: The Comanche Women, Antigone, A Day at the Nighthawk, Rain Dance, Melanin, Acedia, Reunion, and The Woman with a Mustache. She has been a director for the Two Worlds Native Theater Festival and the Cool Side of Hell Theater Troupe, Institute of American Indian Arts. She is a member of the Advisory Committee for the Native Theater Festival at The Public Theater. Her play, Carbon Black received its world premiere with Native Voices last fall.

Julie Jensen is the recipient of the Kennedy Center Award for New American Plays for White Money, the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work for The Lost Vegas Series, and the LA Weekly Award for Best New Play for Two-Headed. She has received the McKnight National Playwriting Fellowship for Wait!, the TCG/NEA Playwriting Residency for Wait!, a major grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts for Dust Eaters, and the Edgerton Foundation Grant for Billion Dollar Baby. Her work has been produced in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as well as in this country in New York and theatres nationwide. She has been commissioned by Mark Taper Forum, ASK Theatre Projects, Kennedy Center, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Salt Lake Acting Company, Geva Theatre, and Philadelphia Theatre Company, Penn State University, and Dramatic Publishing. Her work is published by Dramatic Publishing, Dramatists Play Service, and Playscripts, Inc. Her book on playwriting Playwriting: Brief and Brilliant has just been published by Smith and Kraus. Her play She Was My Brother just finished a successful run in Tucson, AZ, at Borderlands Theatre, and it will be produced by Plan-B Theatre in Salt Lake City next fall. She is currently the Resident Playwright at Salt Lake Acting Company.

Alan Kilpatrick (Cherokee) is a Professor of American Indian Studies at San Diego State University. As a scholar, he has won many academic awards such as a Bienecke Fellowship (Yale University), an Irvine Teaching Fellowship (Stanford University), and two Fulbrights. His writing credits include screenplays, television documentaries, the non-fiction book The Night Has a Naked Soul, as well as several plays. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

Douglas Langworthy is currently the Literary Manager and Dramaturg at the Denver Center Theatre Company. Prior to Denver, he served as Dramaturg and Director of Play Development at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ for two years and Director of Literary Development and Dramaturgy at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) for seven. While at OSF he developed a new adaptation of Dumas’ The Three Musketeers with Linda Alper and Penny Metropulos and a new translation of Brecht’s The Good Person of Szechuan, both for the 1999 season. In 2007 he collaborated with Penny Metropulos and Linda Alper to write the lyrics and book for the new musical Tracy’s Tiger, based on the novella by William Saroyan, with music by Sterling Tinsley. He has translated 15 plays from the German, which include Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind and The Prince of Homburg, Penthesilea, and Amphitryon. His translation of Goethe’s Faust was produced in New York City by Target Margin Theatre.

Brian Quirt is artistic director of Nightswimming (Toronto) and dramaturg for its City of Wine project, Ned Dickens’ seven-play cycle. His plays include Blue Note (with Martin Julien), The Death of General Wolfe and adaptations of Jane Urquhart’s The Whirlpool, Michael Redhill’s Lake Nora Arms (with Jane Miller) and the Iranian play Aurash (with Soheil Parsa). He is directing the premiere of the Nightswimming commission, Such Creatures by Judith Thompson, at Toronto's Theatre Passe Muraille in January and dramaturged recent works by Anosh Irani, Anita Majumdar, Kendra Fanconi, Andy Massingham, Don Druick and Richard Sanger. His freelance dramaturgy credits include Marie Clements' Tombs of the Vanishing Indian (Native Earth Performing Arts). He is the past-president of the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, and a two-time recipient of LMDA's Elliott Hayes Award for Dramaturgy.

Shawn Termin (Oglala Lakota) has been with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Heye Center in New York City for over 10 years as Cultural Arts Manager and Program Producer. She co-authored, Remembering Others: Making Invisible Histories Visible and wrote the first Native produced curriculum by the NMAI, To Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions. For four years, she wrote the children’s column for the NMAI’s American Indian magazine. She has provided consulting services for various publications including Cobblestone and National Geographic. She recently was selected as a Cultural Diplomacy Fellow by The Aspen Institute at the 2009 Cultural Diplomacy Forum in Aviles, Spain, served as a consultant for the Planet Indigenous Festival in Toronto, Canada and was a panelist for the New York State Council for the Arts.

Sheila Tousey (Menominee, Stockbridge Munsee) has acted in film, television, Broadway, Off-Broadway, and in regional theaters across the country. Some of her favorite directors she has worked with include: Michael Apted, Sam Shepard, Joe Chaikin, Dan Sackheim, Lisa Peterson, David Esbjornson, Betsy Theobald, Livieu Ciulei, Tony Taccone, Maria Vail, JoAnn Akalitis, and Robert Woodruff. She was Artist-in-Residence at The Public Theater in NYC in 2006 and 2007 where she, along with Maria Vail, and in collaboration with Sam Shepard, adapted The Bottle House, a play based on the short stories and poetry of Sam Shepard. She was most recently seen in Native Voices production of Carbon Black at the Autry National Center. Training: MFA NYU Graduate Acting Program.
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Welcome 2010!

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Long time, no blog! It's been awhile hasn't it? Well, I do apologize for our absence but I have a lot of exciting news to share with you so sit back and enjoy the read.

First up is our upcoming production of
Tales of an Urban Indian
written and starring Darrell Dennis (Shuswap), produced in association with The Public Theater. Tales is the semi-autobiographical story of Simon Douglas who moves from the rez to the city. Although it may sound like a simple tale, the path Simon takes is anything but. 

Tales of an Urban Indian makes its West Coast premiere at Native Voices after enjoying a successful run in 2009 at The Public Theater, its World Premiere with Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto, Canada, and garnering two Dora Mavor Award nominations (the highest theatrical honor in Canada).

More information will be released in the coming weeks but, for now, you'll want to mark your calendars for what the New York Post calls an "evening filled with insightful observations about the Indian experience [that] amusingly counters our stereotypical notions of Indian life” and what Backstage called “a searing blend of anger, pride and resolution [storytelling] laced with abundant and welcome humor.” 

Tales of an Urban Indian opens on March 13th and runs until the 28th. Performances are on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. Half-price previews occur on March 11 and 12 at 8pm and March 13 at 2pm. Advanced reservations can be made by emailing

Next, I'm very pleased to announce our playwrights for our 2010 Playwrights Retreat and Festival of New Plays! This year we have selected three exciting scripts that experiment with the notion of time:

Marie Clements (Mètis) for Tombs of the Vanishing Indian
A contemporary tragedy that converges the dreams, blood, and tears of three separated Indian sisters against the political, cultural, and social currents of 1970's Los Angeles.

Jack Dalton (Yup'ik) and Allison Warden (Inupiaq) for Time Immemorial
Long, long ago, there was the light. And then, there were Tulu and Miti. And then... history happened.

Dawn Jamieson (Cayuga) for On the Mangled Beam
Giving light to the contributions Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) ironworkers made in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. 

The 2010 Playwrights Retreat will take place in San Diego from May 31 - June 7, 2010. The Festival of New Plays will be held on June 5 - 6 at La Jolla Playhouse and June 25 - 26 at the Autry National Center. Please e-mail us to receive more information or to be placed on our mailing list.

Third is the Alaska Native Heritage Project (January 25 - 29, 2010). You may recall from one of our previous posts that this year-long project is designed to identify, train, and nurture Alaska Native writers. But what was not announced in that post was that Native Voices Executive Director, Jean Bruce Scott, is actually serving as a consultant and one of the mentors on this project! We're very excited to lend our support to the ten writers who were selected for this project and can't wait to see where the year will lead us.

For information about the selected playwrights as well as the teaching artists who will be joining Jean in Alaska, please click here to view their press release.

Our next post will feature more information regarding our retreat playwrights and our reading panel. It's going to be a busy, busy year so keep checking back for the latest info!

Till next time!
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