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*** Arena’s latest docudrama features stories from various Tribal Nations representing six different locations across the United States and Canada ***
(Washington, D.C.) Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is pleased to announce that the world-premiere docudrama, Indigenous Earth Voices, will debut online on June 2 at 7 p.m. The film, performed, directed and written by Indigenous artists will examine and explore Indigenous peoples’ relationship to the land. Voices from over 20 tribes are represented: Azteca, Blackfeet, Caddo, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cree, Cup’ik Eskimo, Native Hawaiian, Isleta Pueblo, Kluane First Nation, Lac Seul (Obishikokaang) First Nation, Laguna Pueblo, Mohawk, Mohegan, Muscogee Creek, Piscataway, Prairie Band Potawatomi, Shoshone, Southern Tutchone, Tlingit, Tuscarora, Yankton Sioux and Zuni.
The 60-minute film shot via Zoom brings viewers six personal stories about climate change, subsistence farming, family traditions, tribal medicine and broken treaties. These powerful stories, written by five playwrights, are based upon interviews with tribal elders and storytellers from across North America.
“My monologue speaks about a spiritual connection to the land and how it shows us who we are,” states Playwright Dillon Chitto (Choctaw, Laguna, Isleta Pueblo). “When I was writing the monologue, I began to question what our ancestors would think about how much we all migrate. Many of us live on land that was once someone else’s, so we have a responsibility to take care of it for future generations in the name of those who took care of it for us. Unfortunately, many people take the land they live on for granted and they don’t think of the deep history. I hope this project is able to make people think of who we all are in regard to where we live, what our connection is to the past and who we would be as individuals if the land is not cared for.”
These rich stories, which came through interviewing storytellers, were transformed into monologues by Indigenous playwrights and delivered by Indigenous actors. The film brings Indigenous stories and values to the mainstream in a way that is rarely through major resident theaters.
“Now is a critical time to observe, respect and listen to Native voices. The violence inflicted on Native Peoples and Native lands in the past has continued to today, and now it threatens our collective future as global citizens sharing the same home here on Earth,” explains Playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee Nation). “If we want to survive the environmental challenges ahead of us, we will have to stop silencing Native voices. It is time to start listening to them.”
The film also features musical selections by Indigenous composers and musicians woven between each monologue. Featured artists include Dawn Avery (Mohawk), Glenn Drapeau, Gary Drapeau and Hehaka Akichita ElkSoldier (Yankton Sioux), Pura Fé & Ulali (Tuscarora), Melody McKiver (Lac Seul Obishikokaang First Nation), Martha Redbone Roots Project (Choctaw), Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree Nation), Diyet and the Love Soldiers (Southern Tutchone, Tlingit, Kluane First Nation), Rory Stitt (Tlingit) and Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate (Chickasaw).
“This past year has forced us, as storytellers and theater makers, to re-commit to what is important about our work, why we do it, and devote our lives to it. This project is storytelling in its most pure form,” shares Director Olivia Espinosa (Azteca). “The creative team never met in person. There were no theatrical frills or special effects. The primary focus — the story — bringing the words of real Indigenous voices to life in a way that puts their words center stage to discover, honor and celebrate how Indigenous people walk, play and live on Mother Earth.”
For Artistic Director Molly Smith, this film is an important undertaking.
“This is a heart project for me. Indigenous voices are so rarely heard in theater or on film. The artists and collaborators are dynamic and resilient — when blizzards and tornados interrupted filming, there was ingenuity, creativity and pure artistry to work through the challenges,” shares Smith. “For a film about Indigenous people and their relationship to the land, somehow it was perfect for Mother Nature to play a part.”
Interviewees in the film include Earl Atchak (Cup’ik), Nitanis Desjarlais (Cree Nation Treaty No. 8), Glenn Drapeau (Yankton Sioux), Mary Jane Goggles (Shoshone), Crystal Lameman (Cree Nation Treaty No. 6) and Octavius Seowtewa (Zuni).
Featured playwrights in the docudrama include Lee Cataluna (Hawaiian), Dillon Chitto (Choctaw, Laguna, Isleta Pueblo), Frank Henry Kaash Katasse (Tlingit), Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee Nation) and Madeline Sayet (Mohegan).
The cast of Indigenous Earth Voices includes Earl Atchak (Cup’ik), Lorna Bowen (Muscogee Creek), Joe Cross (Caddo, Potawatomi), Allison Hicks (Prairie Band Potawatomi, Choctaw), Kalani Queypo (Blackfeet, Hawaiian) and DeLanna Studi (Cherokee).
Indigenous Earth Voices is directed by Tammy Haili’ōpua Baker (Hawaiian), Olivia Espinosa (Azteca) and Randy Reinholz (Choctaw). Additional members of the creative team include Stage Manager Katie Rich (Chickasaw, Cherokee) Cultural Consultant Suzanne Blue Star Boy (Yankton Sioux) and Arena’s Artistic Leader Molly Smith serving as Creative Producer. Land acknowledgement and welcome by Julie Tayac Yates (Piscataway Indian Nation).
The video production team is led by Virtual Multimedia Designer Jared Mezzocchi, Multimedia Design, Virtual Design Collective LLC, Tori Schuchmann, ViDCo Associate, Project Manager, Nitsan Scharff ViDCo Associate, Video Capture and Editor, Alisa Ungar-Sargon, ViDCo Associate, Editor.
Over a dozen theaters and organizations across the country are joining Arena Stage as partners in sharing the free broadcast of Indigenous Earth Voices.
Arena is proud to partner with Asolo Repertory Theater, Beaver Lake Cree Nation, BoHo Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Honolulu Theatre for Youth, Kansas City Repertory, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, La Jolla Playhouse, Perseverance Theatre, Portland Center Stage, San Diego Repertory, Seattle Repertory Theater, Second Stage Theater and Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.
As of June 2, patrons can view the film for free at arenastage.org and access Arena’s viewing link at the partnering theaters’ respective websites. The film will remain available to stream for twelve weeks.
* Media interested in interviews and reviews, including photo/video requests, should please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. *
Supporting sponsorship for Indigenous Earth Voices is generously provided by the Artistic Director’s Fund. Contributing sponsorship for Indigenous Earth Voices is generously provided by Andrew R. Ammerman.
The Looking Forward Season is generously sponsored by Global Medical REIT Inc.
Lee Cataluna (Hawaiian) was born and raised in Hawaii and is of Native Hawaiian descent. Recent projects for the stage include Ipu for Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Home of the Brave for La Jolla Playhouse, Flowers of Hawaii at Native Voices at the Autry and Mudpies and Magic at Honolulu Theatre for Youth. Her books include Folks You Meet at Longs and the children’s book Ordinary `Ohana. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from University of California, Riverside.
Dillon Chitto (Choctaw, Laguna, Isleta Pueblo) is a Native American of Mississippi Choctaw, Laguna and Isleta Pueblo descent. He grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he learned the importance of art, culture and traditions from his family. In his playwriting, he connects these themes using storytelling techniques learned throughout his life. He is presently in Chicago, Illinois and is currently a company member of BoHo Theatre where he is an artistic administrator. His first play, Bingo Hall, was given a world premiere by Native Voices at the Autry in March 2018 in Los Angeles. He was selected as Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program’s 2017 winning playwright. He has also worked with Global Voices theatre project in London as well as Theater Above the Law in Chicago. He was recently selected as a resident for AlterTheater’s 2020 AlterLab cohort.
Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee Nation) is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She is also a partner at Pipestem Law, P.C., where she works to protect tribal sovereignty and the inherent right of Indian Nations to protect their women and children from domestic violence and sexual assault. From 2015 to 2019, she served as the first Executive Director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program. Nagle is an alum of the 2013 Public Theater Emerging Writers Program. Productions include Miss Lead (Amerinda, 59E59), Fairly Traceable (Native Voices at the Autry), Sovereignty (Arena Stage), Manahatta (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Return to Niobrara (Rose Theater), Crossing Mnisose (Portland Center Stage), Sovereignty (Marin Theatre Company) and Manahatta (Yale Repertory Theatre).
Frank Henry Kaash Katasse (Tlingit) is from the Tsaagweidí clan. Frank is an actor, director, producer, improviser, educator, author and playwright. Frank received his Bachelor’s in Theatre Arts from the University of Hawai’i: Mānoa. Frank served as Board President of Juneau/Douglas Little Theatre (2013-2019), a Perseverance Theatre company member (2008-present) and the Playwright in Residence for Theater Alaska (2020-present). In 2017, Perseverance Theatre produced (along with Native Voices at the Autry and La Jolla Playhouse) the rolling world premiere of Katasse’s play They Don’t Talk Back. Frank has also developed two full length plays, Where the Summit Meets the Stars and Spirit of the Valley, as the Playwright in Residence (2018). Frank currently lives in Douglas, AK with his wife and two kids.
Madeline Sayet (Mohegan) is a citizen of the Mohegan Tribe, the Executive Director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program (YIPAP) and Co-Artistic Director of Red Eagle Soaring: Native Youth Theater. For her work as a theater maker, she has been honored as a Forbes 30 Under 30, TED Fellow, MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, National Directing Fellow, Native American 40 Under 40 and a recipient of The White House Champion of Change Award from President Obama. Her play, Where We Belong, first shown in London at Shakespeare’s Globe, will have its U.S. premiere in DC as part of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s current season. www.madelinesayet.com.
Tammy Hailiʻōpua Baker’s (Hawaiian) work focuses on revitalizing Kanaka Maoli moʻolelo (Native Hawaiian history and narratives). She writes, directs and often produces her own hana keaka, Hawaiian-medium plays, that have been featured around the world. Most recently, ʻAuʻa ʻIa: Holding On, toured to Theatre for the New City and New York Theatre Workshop and she directed the revoicing of Disney’s Moana in the Hawaiian language. Across the Hawaiian archipelago and Oceania, her plays My Boy He Play Ball, Lāʻieikawai, Kamapuaʻa and Māuiakamalo have invoked Indigenous consciousness and sovereign expression. Hailiʻōpua is a board member of the Consortium of Asian American Theaters and Artists and an invited director at the National Institute for Directing & Ensemble Creation organized by Pangea World Theater and Art2Action.
Olivia Espinosa (Azteca) is a bilingual actor, playwright and director. A proud member of Native Voices at The Autry Artist Ensemble, she helped launch the ensemble play Stories from the Indian Boarding School. Native Voices directing credits include readings for their annual play festivals and most recently, co-directing The New Adventures of Super Indian by Arigon Starr which includes 3 audio episodes based on her popular graphic novel. In 2017, Olivia received Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s most prestigious award, The Phil Killian Directing Fellowship, where she was assistant director to Artist Director Bill Rauch on Off the Rails by Randy Reinholz. Additional work includes directing for La Jolla Playhouse’s 2019 Without Walls Festival and assisting Tony Taccone on John Leguizamo’s Kiss My Aztec.
Randy Reinholz (Choctaw) is Founder and Producing Artistic Director Emeritus of Native Voices at the Autry. He is a producer, director, actor and playwright, with over 100 productions in the United States, Australia, Great Britain, Canada and Mexico. Reinholz received ATHE’s Ellen Stewart Career Achievement in Professional Theatre Award. He was also recognized with Playwrights’ Arena’s Lee Melville Award for outstanding contributions to Los Angeles theatre. Reinholz has also received: Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, MAP Grant, McKnight Fellowship and multiyear support from the NEA, Ford Foundation, Shubert Foundation, City of LA Cultural Affairs, Disney, Sony and LA County Arts Commission. A professor at San Diego State University since 1997, he has served as Head of Acting, Director of the School of Theatre, Television and Film and Director of Community Engagement and Innovation.
Virtual Design Collective (ViDCo) Founded in the middle of the pandemic, ViDCo (Virtual Design Collective) is a collective of over 20 designers, programmers and technicians innovating new ways to tell stories and create communities online. Focusing its core values on audience engagement and live design, ViDCo generates entirely live performances with heightened design elements that bridges theatre, television and cinema tricks into an online hybrid form. We strategize to use the strongest elements of every discipline to inspire the artistic community to use their tools while we provide them the platforms and expertise to tell their stories.
Earl Atchak (Cup’ik) was born in Chevak, Alaska a small village of a thousand Cup’ik Eskimos in 1965. Earl studied acting and performing in Chevak throughout his high school years and later was hired as an intern at Juneau’s Perseverance Theatre when Molly Smith was the Artistic Director. Smith chose Atchak from a number of Eskimo performers who were taught traditional dancing and singing to act in a play titled Odyssey in 1985. Later in the early 1990’s, Atchak authored a play called In Two Worlds, which told a story of how Eskimo villages in Alaska were forced to become big corporations. Additionally, Atchak performed in an Off-Broadway play titled Lilac and Flag. Earl is currently an award-winning mask maker and artist in his hometown.
Lorna Bowen (Muscogee Creek) is a freelance costumer, a figure finishing artist for Animal Makers and has had the great privilege to be wardrobe supervisor for Bingo Hall, Pure Native and Lying with Badgers at Native Voices at the Autry. Lorna was given the great honor of reading and singing Aunt Iris for Missing Peace in 2019 as her first on stage performance for Native Voices. Lorna is so grateful to Randy Reinholz, Jean Bruce Scott and Elisa Blandford for their faith and trust. MVTO!
Joe Cross (Caddo, Potawatomi) has numerous theater credits including Macbeth (Amerinda), Powwow Highway (Yellowrobe), The History of Asking the Wrong Question (North Fourth St. Theatre), White Woman Street (Daelaus), Inktomi (Public), Harvest Ceremony (director, Smithsonian), Earth, Sun & Moon (Lincoln Center) and Broadway Melody 1492 (Ohio Theater). His television credits include: One Life to Live, Saturday Night Live, CBS Sunday Morning, The Jury, David Letterman, Spin City, Chris Rock, The Whitest Kids I Know, LA Law, ESPN and The History Channel. Film credits include: Lucky Dog, Affluenza, Aimless, Creating Karma, The Storyteller, Natives (NYU), Smoke Break (NYU), BuzzKill, The War That Made America, The Story of the Pequot War, Royal Tanenbaum, Kinsey and A Thousand Roads (signature piece for NMAI, Smithsonian). Awards include: Silvercloud Outstanding Service, Metro Caddo Cultural Club, SAG Cultural Award, Fort Monmouth Heritage Award, Bergen County Community College Historic Award and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (Wiping Away the Tears-WTC). Thanks to Deborah and Muriel for their hard work and skills.
Allison Hicks (Prairie Band Potawatomi, Choctaw) is an actor and an enrolled member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation and is also of Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma descent. Her recent theater credits include Devilfish by Vera Starbard (Tlingit) at Perseverance Theater in Alaska, Mary Kathryn Nagle’s (Cherokee) Return to Niobrara at the Rose Theater, Omaha, NE and Bingo Hall by Dillon Chitto (Laguna Pueblo/Mississippi Choctaw) in Los Angeles, CA, The Native Voices at the Autry Play Festival, The Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program Play Festival, The National New Play Festival and The John F. Kennedy Center Play Festival. She can be seen in the upcoming television series Rutherford Falls (NBC/Peacock). Instagram: @allison_hudson_hicks.
Kalani Queypo (Blackfeet, Hawaiian) trained in New York City, before moving to Los Angeles, and was featured on stages all over the country — the Goodspeed Opera House, Arena Stage, Trinity Repertory Company, Mark Taper Forum, The Wilma and The Ordway. He can be seen in the Oscar-nominated Terrence Malick film, The New World, Steven Spielberg’s Emmy winning Into the West and Slow West (Sundance Grand Jury Prize). Television credits include Jamestown (three seasons series regular), Saints & Strangers, Fear the Walking Dead, Mad Men, Nurse Jackie, Bones and Hawaii Five-0. Kalani is currently starring on the CW’s Trickster. A short film written and directed by Kalani, Ancestor Eyes, screened at nearly 40 festivals and won 14 awards including the Rhode Island International Film Festival’s Directorial Discovery Award.
DeLanna Studi (Cherokee) is an actor/playwright whose TV credits include Dreamkeeper, Edge of America, Shameless, General Hospital, Z Nation and Goliath. Her theater credits include the first national Broadway tour of August: Osage County, Off-Broadway’s Informed Consent and Gloria: A Life. She retraced her family’s footsteps along the Trail of Tears with her father and wrote her play And So We Walked. She has created plays for Theatre for One, The Theatre Center and Period Piece. She is the Chair of SAG-AFTRA’s National Native Americans Committee and the Artistic Director of Native Voices at the Autry. Instagram: @DeLannaStudi.
Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Producer Edgar Dobie, is a national center dedicated to American voices and artists. Arena Stage produces plays of all that is passionate, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays and impacting the lives of over 10,000 students annually through its work in community engagement. Now in its eighth decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000. arenastage.org