November 14, 2008

Three plays and a movie

The Public Theater: Native Theater Festival

The Public goes native, courtesy of a lot of Canadian talentIn a coincidence that seems arranged by the spirits, aboriginal Canadian performers and writers spanning a century are appearing in New York this week as part of two separate events that demonstrate the enormous distance native culture has travelled in that time.

The American Museum of Natural History's annual Margaret Mead Film & Video Festival, which presents works engaged in ethnography, will host a rare screening tomorrow evening of a newly restored print of In The Land of the Headhunters, a 1914 silent film set among the Kwakwaka'wakw in British Columbia. When the film premiered last June in Vancouver, some descendents of the cast suggested their ancestors participated in the production as a subversive way of presenting their culture at a time when official government policy was extremely oppressive.

Downtown, living native culture will take the stage of the Public Theater in the form of the second annual Native Theater Festival, which opened last night with a concert at Joe's Pub by Martha Redbone. This year's festival, which will draw hundreds of industry players, including literary managers from theatres around New York and across the U.S., includes three staged readings of plays, a public panel discussion on Saturday afternoon and numerous other meetings.
And:Two of the three plays in the festival will be directed by Canadians: Marie Clements from Galiano Island in British Columbia will direct tonight's kickoff play, The Conversion of Ka'Ahumanu, about the relationship between the Christian missionaries in Hawaii and indigenous women in the 19th century, by the native Hawaiian/Samoan writer Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl; Alanis King will helm Laura Shamas's Chasing Honey tomorrow, featuring the Canadian actress Tamara Podemski. The latter has previously received a workshop production at Native Earth Performing Arts in Toronto.

Other Canadians taking part include playwright Daniel David Moses, Yvette Nolan and Jennifer Podemski, all of whom helped to curate the festival by serving on its advisory board. And Monique Mojica, Michelle St. John, and Billy Merasty will appear in the third play, Eric Gansworth's Re-Creation Story, a playful alteration of the Haudenosaunee creation narrative.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.

Below:  Tamara Podemski in Four Sheets to the Wind.

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