November 02, 2012

Short plays about Native athletes

Native Voices Festival Focuses on Short Sports Plays

By Ed RampellLos Angeles is home to North America’s largest urban Native American population and one of its largest theater scenes. The Autry National Center’s Native Voices combines both elements, offering plays written and performed by indigenous playwrights and actors. As part of the Autry’s annual American Indian Arts Marketplace, which features 180 indigenous vendors and a filmfest presented by the Sundance Institute, the theater company is featuring a Short Play Festival. This year’s theme, “Indians in America: Native American Athletes Take The Field,” honors the centennial of Jim Thorpe’s gold medal triumphs at the 1912 Olympics.

Twenty-seven aboriginal bards across the continent responded to the second annual Short Play Festival’s call for scripts. Native Voices’ co-founder and producing executive director Jean Bruce Scott explained that the criteria for participation required that the plays had not been previously performed and that they not last longer than circa 15 minutes. And the playwright had to be descended from North America’s pre-European original settlers (although the characters and themes of their pieces did not have to be indigenous).

Six plays—three by first timers, two by intermediate playwrights and one by a highly produced writer of plays—were selected for inclusion in the festival by a national reading panel of Native American theater artists and community members. They’ll receive staged readings at the Autry’s 199-seat Wells Fargo Theater at Griffith Park. Immediately afterward, a panel of judges is giving the Von Marie Atchley Excellence in Playwriting Award, a $1,000 cash prize, to one of the authors.

Native Voices bills itself as the “only Equity theater company dedicated exclusively to developing work by Native American playwrights” in the US. Established in 1993, six years later Native Voices became part of the Autry, an American West museum that had been co-founded by the silver screen’s singing cowboy, Gene Autry.
A Theater Festival Examines the Thorny Issues of Native Americans in Sports

By Jenny LowerThe joys and struggles of life as an Indian athlete--and everything in-between--is the subject of the second annual short play festival from Native Voices at the Autry, the country's only Equity theater company devoted to producing new work by indigenous playwrights of North America. Six writers--including Tibbetts and Dennis--will showcase their work in staged readings Nov. 3 as part of the Autry's American Indian Arts Marketplace. The theme celebrates the achievements of Jim Thorpe, a Sac and Fox member who won gold medals in both the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics 100 years ago.

The plays' abbreviated format is intended to encourage new writers who might otherwise be too intimidated to submit, says Jean Bruce Scott, who co-founded Native Voices in 1993 with her husband, Randy Reinholz. She'll be watching carefully for stories with development potential, and help award the festival's thousand-dollar cash prize.

Tibbetts, who now holds a doctorate in counseling, has written his second play, about a former athletic legend who encounters the up and comer expected to beat his long-standing record. Tibbett's grandfather captained the track team at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School only a few years after Thorpe attended, and Tibbetts himself set a high school record in the mile that stood for 20 years.

In Dennis' Home of the Running Brave, an Olympian who wants to compete under his tribal nation's flag clashes with the Games committee. The veteran performer, whose one-man show Tales of an Urban Indian toured the U.S. and Canada, says the script tackles the thorny issues of identity many Native people face. "Are you wrong for wanting to be an American? Do you have to give up being an American to be a Native citizen?" he asks. "Can you be both?"
Comment:  For more on Native Voices, see Native Voices Presents Distant Thunder and Walking on Turtle Island at the Autry.

Below:  Darrell Dennis.

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