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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