Short Plays Honor 100th Anniversary of Jim Thorpe’s Olympic Triumph
By Rob Schmidt
This year’s theme, in honor of Jim Thorpe, who won two gold medals at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, was “Native Americans Take the Field.”
The themes of competition and reward were apt for the staged reading held November 3, at which six playwrights' work was on display. To the victor, after all, would go the spoils -- specifically, a $1,000 prize.
Since 1999, Native Voices has developed and produced Native plays in Los Angeles. Recently it became involved with Alaska’s Last Frontier Theater Conference, a non-Native event that includes short plays.
“We got to talking,” said Jean Bruce Scott, executive director of Native Voices, “and thought that was an excellent opportunity to bring in some new writers. Some who perhaps hadn’t written a full-length play, or a one-act play. And the short-play format would be a little less intimidating.”
They decided to hold a short-play festival and offer a cash prize. Named for the storytelling grandmother of executive director Randy Reinholz, Choctaw, it became the Von Marie Atchley Excellence in Playwriting Award.
The inaugural theme was “Indians in America: What You See Is What You Get.” In other words, said Scott, “Native Americans are on the scene, and they can be in any walk of life. So it was really meant to be: Look at us, we are here. We’re still here.”
Native Voices put out a call for scripts and received more than 40 submissions. The winner was "Raven One" by Lucas Rowley, Inupiaq. It told of a mixed-blood Native and a white man on a deep-space mission.
This year’s theme was inspired by Chris Canole, Sac and Fox, an artist, actor and writer. Canole has long been fascinated by Native athletes in general and Jim Thorpe, also Sac and Fox, in particular. For a screenplay he was writing, he did a charcoal drawing of Thorpe.
Canole contacted Native Voices to see if they were doing anything to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Thorpe’s Olympic triumph. He offered to donate the drawing as an incentive. After talking with him, the “Taking the Field” sports theme was born.
Below: "Actors Spencer Battiest, Maxton Scott, and Tom Allard reading 'Champ' by Lucas Rowley, Inupiaq, at the Short Plays Festival at The Autry." (Maria Brunner Ventura)