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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Submissions for Native Earth's Weesageechak Festival: August 1

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"Native Earth Performing Arts is seeking submissions for its annual festival of new works by Native artists. Weesageechak Begins to Dance is a festival devoted to showcasing and developing new works of Aboriginal theatre and dance."

Please follow the links or click on the image above for more information.

Best of luck!
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