Native Voices at the Autry Presents Five Plays on Indian Boarding Schools

LEFT: Thomas Moore as he appeared when admitted to the Regina Indian Industrial School, May 1874 (DETAIL). RIGHT: Thomas Moore, after tuition at the Regina Indian Industrial School. Source: Library and Archives Canada/Annual report of the Department of Indian Affairs (1896)/AMICUS 90778/nlc-01524, 90778/nlc-01525

LEFT: Thomas Moore as he appeared when admitted to the Regina Indian Industrial School, May 1874 (DETAIL). RIGHT: Thomas Moore, after tuition at the Regina Indian Industrial School. Source: Library and Archives Canada/Annual report of the Department of Indian Affairs (1896)/AMICUS 90778/nlc-01524, 90778/nlc-01525

Featuring Five Short Plays by Native American Playwrights on Nov. 9

LOS ANGELES — Continuing its role as the only Equity theatre company dedicated to developing new work by Native American artists, Native Voices at the Autry presents its fourth annual Short Play Festival: Cut Short. Held during the Autry National Center of the American West’s American Indian Arts Marketplace on November 9, 2014, the festival will feature staged readings connected to the theme “Legacy and Loss: Stories From the Indian Boarding School.”

“In recent years, stories surrounding the Indian boarding school system have become more common in the submissions we receive, so we were very excited to explore this theme during the 2014–2015 Season,” says Jean Bruce Scott, Native Voices Producing Executive Director.

“The Native Voices Artists Ensemble has been diligently researching historical documents, academic texts, first-​person narratives, family histories, and present-​day interviews of current boarding school students to create their own new work this year, but also in preparation for bringing our short plays to life on stage.”

Cut Short brings together five short-form plays by Native American playwrights. The writers were asked to explore the Indian boarding school experience and its effect on young lives, families, communities, culture, and contemporary Indian education. The plays, which were selected by a national panel, will be workshopped and read by the Native Voices Artists Ensemble.

“The work of the Native Voices Artists Ensemble has been greatly facilitated by the holdings of the Libraries and Archives of the Autry, which has become a rich resource for understanding the history and legacy of Indian boarding schools,” explains David Burton, Senior Director of the Autry’s Institute for the Study of the American West and Managing Director of Native Voices. “We are now seeing how boarding school experiences of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries both differ from and resemble what boarding school residents experienced from the 1930s through 1960s. I’m eager to see how this manifests itself in the short plays.”

Occurring annually during the Autry’s American Indian Arts Marketplace, the Short Play Festival presents professional staged readings of five 20-minute plays related to a particular theme. Plays selected for the festival are considered for the Von Marie Atchley Excellence in Playwriting Award, a $1,000 cash prize based on the creative use of the competition theme, originality, theatricality, execution, and audience response.

The Short Play Festival is included with admission to the Marketplace (free for Autry members; $12 adults; $8 students and seniors; $4 children ages 3–12). Seating for Cut Short is limited, and early arrival is suggested.

About the Featured Readings and Authors

The Roadside Residential by Darrell Dennis (Shuswap Nation)
In The Roadside Residential, ghosts of the past haunt a young couple when they duck into an abandoned boarding school to escape a heavy snowstorm. A First Nations actor/writer/comedian,Dennis is also an award-winning playwright whose works have been published by Playwrights Canada Press and in periodicals across Canada and the U.S. His one-man show, Tales of an Urban Indian, was nominated for two Dora Awards (Best Original Play and Best Performance by an Actor) and has toured across Canada and the U.S., including a co-production by The Public Theater and Native Voices at the Autry, and performances in New York and at the Autry. His feature-film adaptation of Tales of an Urban Indian was one of thirteen international screenplays accepted into the prestigious Sundance Screenwriters Lab.

The Cherry Orchard and Commodity Cheese by Vickie Ramirez (Tuscarora–Six Nations of the Grand River)
In The Cherry Orchard and Commodity Cheese, two Mohawk teens question their drama teacher’s interpretation of Chekov’s classic play The Cherry Orchard and grapple with the perception of Native students as “quota kids.” Ramirez is a playwright and a founding member of Chukalokoli Native Theater Ensemble and Amerinda Theater. Her work has been seen at The Public Theater, The Flea, and The Roundabout Theater’s Different Voices Program, among others. She was a featured playwright at the 2010 Santa Fe Theatre Festival for Smoke, which made its world premiere in New York City in 2013. Ramirez was also commissioned by Ohio Northern University for the original one-act of Standoff at Hwy #37, which made its world premiere as a full-length play with Native Voices at the Autry earlier this year.

It’s Only a Truck by Dennis Tibbetts (White Earth Ojibwe / Wind River Shoshone)
It’s Only a Truck focuses on a troubled thirteen-year-old boy who receives unexpected help from a new school counselor. Raised in the Detroit area and drafted by the Marines, Tibbets served in Vietnam in 1967 with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. He received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and is now retired from the position of Director of the American Indian Resource Center and Lecturer at the University of California–Santa Cruz. He currently lives in Marina, California.

Totem Boy by Joseph Valdez (Navajo)
A frightened and displaced boy unearths the story of his roots as he struggles to piece together his broken identity. Valdez received both the Presidential and National Hispanic scholarships to study theatre at the University of Southern California. Since graduating magna cum laude, he has written three plays: Little Big Joe, the Bug Squasher; Swimming to China in My Birthday Suit; and Timestop. Valdez is also an actor, most recently appearing in Octavio Solis’s traveling premiere of Se Llama Cristina at the Theatre @ Boston Court.

A Little Off the Top by Robert Vestal (Cherokee)
A boarding school barber is thwarted by a young boy’s intelligence and a wily pair of scissors in A Little Off the Top. Originally from Chicago, Vestal is a graduate of the University of Chicago. His writing/directing credits include The Bullfrog Lover, an audio play produced by Native Radio Theater at Cherokee High School on the Qualla Boundary; The Key to the Fourth Wall; Reservoir Logs; Jerry; and I Know What You Did Last Spring Break. He currently heads up an all-Native improv troupe, the Mayflower Welcoming Committee, and is a lead artist in the newly formed Native Voices Artists Ensemble.

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