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This year's Retreat and Festival features two plays by Native Alaskan writers. One of the two is Ungipamsuuka (My Story) by Susie Silook. The play follows a sculptor who boldly confronts familial, cultural, and sexual trauma with the healing power of art. Helping Susie bring her story to life will be Stephan Wolfert, Robert Caisley, and Lauren Simon.

Susie Silook (Yupik) is a contemporary Inuit sculptor and published writer, originally from Gambell Alaska, who currently lives on Adak Island, on the Aleutian chain. Her work is included in many private collections and museums, including the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, the Eiteljorg, the De Young, and the Pratt museums. Her themes are taken from her Yupik culture, life experiences, and women’s issues, and incorporate ancestral design in the mediums of walrus ivory, whalebone, and wood. She is the recipient of the Eiteljorg and United States Artists awards, the Governor’s Individual Artist award, and a civil rights award from the Alaska Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Stephan Wolfert left a career in the military for a life in the theatre after seeing Richard III. Since leaving the Army as an Infantry officer, he has received his MFA in Theatre from Trinity Rep Conservatory; created and directed the military segments for Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel’s Tony–award-winning Broadway musical Movin’ Out; created the largest touring Shakespeare Company in New England; and taught acting and Shakespeare at Cornell University. He currently teaches and directs at the Antelope Valley College, performs with three theatre companies in Los Angeles, and is the founding director of the Veterans Center for the Performing Arts. He was first seen in Native Voices at the Autry’s Please Do Not Touch the Indians and is elated to continue working with them.

Robert Caisley recently directed the LA World Premiere of Carolyn Dunn’s The Frybread Queen for Native Voices. He served as the production dramaturg on the developmental co-production of The Frybread Queen with Montana Repertory Theatre. He is Associate Professor of Theatre and Film and head of the Dramatic Writing Program at the University of Idaho and served as Idaho Repertory’s Artistic Director from 2001 to 2004. His full-length plays include Push, Kissing, Good Clean Fun, Letters to an Alien, The Lake, The 22-Day Adagio, Kite’s Book and Front. His work has been presented at various theatres including the Walnut Street Theatre, Montana Actors Theatre, Idaho Theatre for Youth, Portland Stage Company, Mill Mountain Theatre, New Theatre, Theatre Artists Studio, Phoenix Theatre’s Festival of New Works, the Great Plains Theatre Conference, and the Last Frontier Theatre Conference. His numerous short plays include Hungry 4 U, Western Mentality, The Apology and Santa Fe, which was a finalist for the 2004 Heideman Award from Actors Theatre of Louisville and originally produced by New York’s Stageworks/Hudson as part of the 2005 Play by Play Festival. His new play, Winter, is scheduled for production at New Theatre in Miami this January. He was recently named as the 2011 Blaine Quarnstrom Visiting Playwright-in-Residence at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Lauren Simon is a playwright, journalist, dramaturg and MFA candidate in dramatic writing at University of Idaho. Her play, Adoration of Dora, part of Moxie Theatre’s Fighting Words Festival in 2010, premieres at University of Idaho in September 2011. Other recent performances of her work include Moscow, which placed first among short plays at the ACTF Region VII Festival in February, and Mi Corazon, a play for young audiences, at Missoula Colony last summer. An excerpt from Mi Corazon will appear in the forthcoming Scenes from a Diverse World, published by the International Centre for Women Playwrights. She recently served as dramaturg for San Diego State’s recent production of Paradise Hotel.

Ungipamsuuka will be presented at La Jolla Playhouse on Friday, June 3 and at the Autry National Center on Friday, June 17 at 7:30p. For tickets, please click here. 


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