The Queen Returns to the City of Angels

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After a successful stint at Montana Rep, Carolyn Dunn's Frybread Queen returns to the Autry National Center for its final workshop before its world premiere in March. To get us back into the "frybread state of mind," I asked dramaturg Robert Caisley to share a bit of his experience working on the script in Montana and tell us what we can look forward to during next week's readings:
The experience of the Montana production was invaluable to the development of this play. There's not a single page of my "Production Draft" that isn't marked up beyond comprehension. The script underwent some radical transformations, some great tightening of dialogue, so much clarification of the stories of these four powerful characters. Carolyn took great advantage of being in the rehearsal studio with the actors and director, and there was hardly a day that went by without having a script meeting either before and, oftentimes, after each rehearsal. Even after Carolyn had to fly home and Jere and I kept rehearsing with the cast, I would speak with Carolyn on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis, keeping her up-to-date on moments that we had discovered, continuining to fine tune the dialogue and take care of trouble spots in the text. We actually began a process we now laughingly refer to as "dramaturgy by text." Jere would be working a scene and something might not be working quite right. He would turn to me as dramaturg and I would text Carolyn the page number, the character and line reference, and what the problem was. Usually within minutes, Carolyn would respond with a solution that I could immediately pass along to Jere to test out in rehearsal. It was an extremely efficient method and we were able to save so much rehearsal time this way.
Carolyn and I are now back into the script, working to polish the text for next week's readings. We're making some significant changes to the final scene and we're working through a very long list of notes from the Montana experience - things we simply would not have know without the benefit of that developmental production.
For those who last saw the show in 2009 during our Festival of New Plays, you'll be in for quite a treat as the script is much stronger and clearer then it's ever been. Of course, we still need your feedback so I certainly hope you're making plans to attend either our November 4th reading at 7p or our November 7th reading at 2p. If you RSVP for either day by 5p on Monday, November 1st, you will receive free admission to the Autry's American Indian Arts Marketplace which is being held all day on November 6 and 7. Please click here for more information. We hope to see you there!
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Who Says There’s No Theatre in LA?

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A guest post by Native Voices Production Coordinator Caroline Chang
There was the looming chance of rain Monday night , but luckily the skies cleared up over the Autry National Center as members of the LA theatre community dropped in for the LA Stage Alliance Ovation Nominees Announcements.

For those of you who don’t know, the LA Stage Alliance is an organization which brings together and builds awareness and support for performing arts organizations in Los Angeles. They host the annual Ovation Awards which is the “only peer-judged theatre awards in Los Angeles, created to recognize excellence in theatrical performance, production and design in the Greater Los Angeles area”. And Native Voices had the honor of being asked to host this year’s Ovation Nominee Announcements!

It was a great night with old theatre friends, and new ones. As well as a great reception by Cheers Catering before the event. The energy was calm but electrifying – ah, so that’s where the thunder and lightning went! Yes, a clear night sky, conversations about theatre, and bruschetta and cracked pepper hummus. What could be better?

The announcements opened with a presentation by Native Voices. David Burton, Managing Director, kicked it off with thanks from and info about The Autry and our new exciting exhibitions up and coming (come see Siqueiros, its fabulous!). Then next stepped up Tonantzin Carmelo and Kalani Queypo, who both effervescently introduced Native Voices to the audience of theatre professionals. What a great opportunity and such apt folks to do the job!

The next day, David remarked to me that “Native Voices at the Autry was delighted and proud to be the host venue for this year’s ovation nominee announcements. This event was a wonderful reminder of the great talent and diversity reflected in the Los Angeles theatre community. We are happy that NV has long contributed to that diversity and grateful that we had the opportunity to share our accomplishments and future goals with our LA theatre family. Many of the new friendships forged last night could lead to some interesting or surprising collaborations in the future. Wouldn’t that be cool?" I think so! Oh, the possibilities!

The rest of the evening went smoothly as winners from last year’s Ovation Awards announced the nominees. It was exciting to be surrounded by that much talent! And congrats to the nominees! Man, it was terrific year in theatre, don’t you agree?

Special thanks to Terrence McFarland, Doug Clayton, Neal Spinler, Phloe Pontaoe and to everyone at the LA Stage Alliance for putting together a fabulous evening! This year’s Ovation Awards Ceremony will be hosted by the Cabrillo Music Center and the Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Plaza on January 17th, 2011.

And a final thought from Caroline:
Theatre in LA is scattered, in pockets of the city here and there with no veritable “Broadway” (as much as those have tried to make it happen). Like much of the cultural activity in LA, you won’t know it until you stumble upon, it hits you in the face, and you take a chance, but it will dazzle you and find a way to connect with you, and you’ll come back wanting more (trust me).

And the performing arts community is big and small at the same time, much like the city itself. Its full of the experimental, contemporary, traditional, avant-garde, classics, remakes, stars and up and comers, the good, the bad, and the ugly (and the beautiful, its LA of course!).

It’s all over the map. Somebody is always doing theatre in LA.
And that’s how we like it.
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Capping Off Diane Glancy Week

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Photo by Lost in Scotland
As you know, last week we kicked off our 2010 First Look Series with a workshop and reading of Diane Glancy's newest play The Bird House. We've developed and produced three plays by Diane in the past and are extremely excited to begin yet another journey with her. In addition, we held an in-house reading of yet another new play by Diane, The Catch, which she's creating in collaboration with long-time Native Voices' Costume Designer Christina Wright.

Needless to say, it was a busy, busy week for Native Voices. The script we began our Wednesday evening workshop with for Bird House was completely re-written for our Thursday afternoon rehearsal and the public reading of the play held later that night was actually only the second time it had been heard out loud in its entirety. Talk about first look!

On Friday, we had to place our Bird thoughts aside in order to explore the depths of The Catch, a play based on the ledger- book drawings of Bear's Heart who was imprisoned at Fort Marion, Florida during The Trail of Tears. We assembled an incredible group of artists to aid Diane and Chris as they continue their examination of voice, clothing, and Native education. Many thanks to Vincent Scott who joined us from the National Museum of the American Indian to direct the piece as well as Kim Walters from the Southwest Musuem of the American Indian who hosted the event. Of course, I have to mention our lovely cast of actors - Robert Greygrass, Kalani Queypo, Adeye Sahran, DeLanna Studi, and Noah Watts - for their creative energies and valuable insights.

Throughout the week, Diane was so gracious with everyone's comments and feedback - surprisingly, not every playwright is like that. But what Native Voices is able to do for its artists is create a safe place that inspires creativity; an open space where we can all be heard. And it is within these spaces that the magic of play development takes place.
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Spotlight on THE BIRD HOUSE

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In anticipation of this Thursday's reading of Diane Glancy's The Bird House, I thought you'd like to meet the creative team and cast of the play. Since a few of them have been featured in our blog in the past, I decided to ask them a few personal questions so we can get to know them a bit better. I also asked them to share their favorite summer pictures with us so you're really in for a treat. ;-D

Carlenne: What inspires you?
Diane: Travel- because I pick up voices / ideas / images when I'm on the road by myself.

C: If you weren't a theatre artist, what would you be? Do you have a second calling?
D: My second calling- a minister. Or a writer of sermons. I like to think about Christianity.

C: Fill in the blank: It's not theatre if it's not _________.
D: ... sparked by language.

In Santa Monica with Councilman Rosendahl and my wife Dawn before VCPA's presentation of Othello

Carlenne: What inspires you?
Stephan: A great idea!

C: If you weren't a theatre artist, what would you be? Do you have a second calling?
S: Theatre IS my second calling.

C: Fill in the blank: It's not theatre if it's not _________.
S: ... spontaneous.

Carlenne: What inspires you?
Bryan: The unknown.

There's an old saying: "Write what you know." Which always seemed to me to be terrible advice. If I know something, then I know how I feel about it, and what I think about it... So what's the fun in that? Where is the discovery? Shakespeare's greatest plays aren't set in England; they're set in classical Rome, in Denmark, in Italy, on strange islands... I'm inspired by my own curiosity about people, about history and about the great sweep of human experience. As a playwright, my plays were about the Dust Bowl, about World War I, about post-partum depression... I was always intrigued about finding a way into a foreign land or different time, about finding those areas of common humanity.

This is what I love about working with Native Voices. As one of the whitest guys on the planet (I am from Orange County) I get to work with theater artists who may have a different cultural experience than I do. But the plays often deal with universal themes (Where did we come from? Where do we go when we die? And exactly what is it that happens in between?). The way different characters attempt to solve these unsolvable dilemmas of life may vary, but the dilemmas are the same.

We are alike, but different. But alike.

This is what I find fascinating and wonderful about human beings, and it brings me back to the theater over and over again.

C: If you weren't a theatre artist, what would you be?
B: When I was in high school, I took some sort of aptitude test that was supposed to help you identify a career. What would I be? I filled in the bubbles and awaited anxiously. The answer: Park Ranger.

I think I would be a pretty good park ranger, actually. I'd take people around, tell them stories. Encourage them to look at the stars and check out the different kinds of plants and the landscape, feel its history, really see the world around them, and wonder at it all.

Now that I think about it, isn't that what a theater artist does?

C: Do you have a second calling in life?
B: Teaching.

I guess it's in my blood. My mother taught grade school in Colorado, and her aunt taught three generations of kids in Ness City, Kansas. Once she started teaching the grand-kids of her first class, she knew it was time to quit.

Some of the best times and some of the hardest times in my life have come in trying to communicate something of meaning to a group of people.

C: Fill in the blank: It's not theatre if it's not _________.
B: ... telling me a story.

Telling a story may sound easy. It's not. But man - when it happens, you feel it.
One Sunday morning, my wife and I were driving home from the grocery store. We were listening to a story from "This American Life" on the radio. When we got home, we couldn't get out of the car. We were too engrossed in the radio program. The frozen foods were melting but we didn't care. We sat for twenty minutes in a sweltering car because we had to know what happened next.

That's the power of story!

Carlenne: What inspires you?
Randy: Great collaborators, smart writing and laughter in the process.

C: If you weren't a theatre artist, what would you be? 
R: I have so many hats– this is like a trick question. I am a lover, a friend, a husband, a motivator, an administrator, a producer, a brother, a son, an uncle, a cousin and I love being with my dog.

C: Do you have a second calling in life?
R: Nope – this is what I am meant to do in life.

C: Fill in the blank: It's not theatre if it's not ______________. 
R: A live event, an intimate act, that provokes, celebrates and examines the paradoxes that make us human.

Carlenne: What inspires you? 
Ellen: Passionate people who love what they do, watching the underdog succeed. Do you know the short film, The Butterfly Circus? Nick Vujicic plays a man without arms or legs in a side show during the Depression. How he finds his own self-worth is a very inspiring story.

C: If you weren't a theatre artist, what would you be? Do you have a second calling in life?
E: Even before I was an actor, I was a singer. That’s the earliest calling I can remember… making up songs while I was swinging on the swings. If I hadn’t gone into the arts, I would most likely have become a counselor. I like helping people succeed, and in many ways, that’s also part of what I do now.

C: Fill in the blank: It's not theatre if it doesn’t ____________.
E: ... move you in some way.
In San Diego at Native Voices 2010 Playwrights Retreat
Carlenne: What inspires you?
Carla-Rae: I am inspired by my FAITH in One Who is bigger than me. It is through that FAITH that I am inspired to keep pressing toward the goal of being all I can be in everything I put my hand to do. I am inspired by using the gifts and talents I have been given to help others believe "if Carla-Rae can do it, than I can do it." Whatever their personal "It" is. I am inspired when I see others reach there goals and I'm inspired by the support I receive from family, friends, and fans. I am inspired by the simple beauty in the little and the big things of life. Of course, I could go on and on, but simply put I am inspired to be a blessing and to bring joy to those whom my life touches. Certainly, all of this inspiration is applied to my work as an actor.

C: If you weren't a theatre artist, what would you be? Do you have a second calling in life?
CR: It is interesting that you ask this question. Just the other day my husband and I were having a discussion. We were remembering taking an aptitude test in high school which was to determine what career direction we would take. Mine determined I would be in the Performing Arts or in some form of Social work. I have a heart for people, so if I wasn't acting, I would probably be spearheading some cause to help mankind.

C: Fill in the blank: It's not theatre if it's not ______________. 
FUN. Whether we are young or old, what we "do" has to bring enjoyment or "what's the point."

Be sure to make your reservations to see The Bird House, Thursday, October 7 at 7p. Click here for more info. We'll see you there!
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