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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