More Than One Way to Make Frybread

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A note from Robert Caisley, the director of Frybread Queen, regarding the recipes that are featured in the show.
Each of the very strong, opinionated, passionate women in the play has their own unique take on how to make frybread. The monologues, in which they relate their recipes to the audience, function in several ways. They are an attempt by each character to assert some kind of “authority” over the past, and to take some kind of control over the future. These women are competing, both literally and metaphorically, to be the real frybread queen in the play. 
The monologues take place outside the time and space of the rest of the play. They violate the unity of the narrative, and as such, they are jolting (in a good way) to the senses. They are moments in which the dramatic tension of the play is momentarily suspended so we can offer some respite, some editorial comment, perhaps some time for the audience to reflect. They are meta-theatrical. They unselfconsciously break the 4th wall that the rest of the play adheres to. They offer commentary on the preceding act and cast some shadow over the action which is about to unfold in the following act. They give us a glimpse into the interior life of the characters as they exist outside the central conflict of the play – perhaps a moment in time that represents a “better” time in the lives of these women? 
Jessie, for example, takes great pride in relating her recipe. Perhaps the domestic chores like cooking frybread have been a distraction from the turbulence of her home life with a physically and emotionally abusive husband and an alcoholic son. The familiar recipe as refuge. Her blue ribbon was perhaps the only “merit badge” she had received that told her she was doing a good job as a mother, and so she clings to this victory fiercely. Pride in her recipe, is pride in her ability to survive in the face of extreme adversity. She has tried so hard to keep some semblance of a family together and frybread is part of the tie that binds. The other women’s recipes are alternately ironic, cynical, and comic. 
I like to think of the monologues as “unguarded moments” for each of the women in the play. They are not being observed like they are in the rest of the play. We are able to see a side of them we don’t see at other times in the play.  
Frybread is both a comfort food (practically speaking) and a cancer (culturally speaking - according to Lily’s monologue.) Monologues are moments in which a character is able to speak w/o judgment. In a family in which everyone’s past behavior and current motives are being constantly scrutinized by every other character on stage, these monologues give us rare glimpses of these women not under pressure. The frybread recipes provide us with moments of seeming impartiality. However, the playwright has been careful in how she has constructed the recipes … because we slowly learn as the play goes on that these recipes are anything but impartial, and reflect the essential agenda of each of the women. It’s not just a simple recipe with slight variations; the monologues are just as opinionated as the women are in the rest of the play. They are asserting their moral, ethical and emotional rights in these monologues. It is their appeal to the audience to “root for me.” “I’m right.” “I’m the frybread queen.” 
In a play that is substantially about the specter of past, and the destructive power of blame and denial, these recipe monologues are a refreshing affirmation of the curative effects of love, home, motherhood, cooking, and the tremendous emotional strength of each of the women in this play.
For more information about The Frybread Queen, please visit our website.


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