By Arigon Starr
Her most recent play, “The Frybread Queen,” was presented as a staged reading in Los Angeles as part of Native Voices at the Autry’s “First Look” series. Native Voices at the Autry is dedicated to developing and presenting new plays from Native American writers and paired Carolyn with an all female production cast and crew. I was lucky enough to play “Annalee Walker,” and was joined by fellow actresses Kateri Walker, LaVonne Rae Andrews and Rayanna Zargosa and first-time director Jennifer Bobiwash. Early in the rehearsals, we looked around the production table and were amazed and proud to not only recognize ourselves as sister artists–but also Native sisters.
Ms. Dunn’s work has been recognized by the Wordcraft Circle of Storytellers and Writers as Book of the Year for poetry (Outfoxing Coyote, 2002) as well as the Year’s Best in 1999 for her short story Salmon Creek Road Kill, the Native American Music Awards (for the Mankillers CD “Comin to Getcha”) and the Humboldt Area Foundation.
As an academic, Carolyn’s work has primarily focused on landscape in American Indian women’s literature (poetry, prose, and drama), and urban American Indian identity formation in California. Currently, she is a James Irvine Foundation Fellow at the Center for American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, where she is pursuing a doctorate. She has taught and developed university curriculum in American Indian literature (poetry and fiction), history, and theatre; she has adapted and directed numerous radio theatre plays as well as staged productions of traditional stories, poems and songs with the American Indian Theatre Collective, Chapa De Indian Youth Theatre Company, The Los Angeles Theater Project and Native Voices at the Autry.
“The Frybread Queen” tells the story of three generations of Indian women, bound by marriage and family ties. They come together for the funeral of a beloved son and in their grief, they confront long simmering tensions and family secrets that threaten to tear them apart.
Below: “Frybread Queen” director Jennifer Bobiwash and writer Carolyn Dunn at the Wells Fargo Theater, Autry National Center, in Los Angeles, CA.