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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