Patch.com La Jolla
The annual Festival of New Plays by Native Americans is back in town
The first feature-length film shot in Hollywood was a western (“ The Squaw Man , ” Cecil B. DeMille , 1914). Later came the original singing cowboy, Gene Autry. And much later (in 1988), he opened the Autry Museum of Western Heritage. In 2003, the Autry Museum merged with the Southwest Museum of the American Indian and the Women of the West Museum.
Since 1999, the Autry National Center has also been home to Native Voices at the Autry, the country’s only professional (Equity) theater company dedicated exclusively to producing new works by Native American playwrights. To date, Native Voices has presented 18 critically acclaimed productions of new plays, seven playwrights’ retreats, 13 new play festivals and 100+ workshops, all of which highlight the unique viewpoints of the more than 500 Native American nations of North America.
Now, for the third year, Native Voices is bringing its playwrights’ retreat and New Play Festival to San Diego. The company’s founder/producing artistic director, Randy Reinholz (Choctaw), is also Director of the School of Theatre, Television and Film at San Diego State University. The retreat, which takes place at SDSU, culminates in the New Play Festival, with four new works premiering at the La Jolla Playhouse, then moving on to the Autry Center in L.A.
“We’re thrilled to be back at La Jolla Playhouse again,” says founder/producing executive director Jean Bruce Scott. “We have an especially strong local connection this year, with more than 20 of our 56 company members hailing from San Diego.”
The nine local actors include Huma Ahmed- Ghosh , professor and incoming chair of Women’s Studies at SDSU, in her first acting performance; and Native Voices founder Reinholz , in a role written specifically for him. Other San Diegans are serving as dramaturges, design consultants, stage managers and administrative/Festival staff.
One of the performers, Kimberly Guerrero, can also be seen onstage this month in the Old Globe production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “August: Osage County,” in a role she originated in Chicago and then performed on Broadway.
The plays workshopped at the one-week retreat and featured in staged readings at the 2011 New Festival of Plays are:
“ Cikiuteklluku ” (Giving Something Away) by Holly Stanton ( Yup’ik ), which concerns a young Yup’ik girl from rural Alaska who has her heart broken when a non-Native couple adopts her baby (“sadly, a frequent occurrence ,” according to Scott).
Performed Thursday, June 2 at 7:30pm.
“ Ungipamsuuka ” (My Story) by Susie Silook (Siberian Yup’il /Inupiaq), about an Alaskan Native sculptor who confronts familial, cultural and sexual trauma with the healing power of art.
Plays on Friday, June 3 at 7:30pm.
“The Bird House” by Diane Glancy (Cherokee), set in the back room of a failing church in the high plains of West Texas, where a minister and his two sisters sort through their troubled past and uncertain future. SDSU Professor Ahmed- Ghosh makes her acting debut.
Saturday, June 4 at 1pm.
“The Woman Who Was Captured by Ghosts,” by Julie Pearson-Little Thunder (Creek), is a blend of realistic and mythical storytelling, relating the story of a Cheyenne woman battling cancer, who takes a metaphysical journey to a place where tradition is the best medicine. Randy Reinholz plays a leading role.
Saturday, June 4 at 4pm.
“It’s a very exciting lineup,” promises Scott. “The plays, the performances and the post-show discussions are sure to enlighten, inform and entertain.”
“Native Voices at the Autry Festival of New Plays” runs June 2-4 at the La Jolla Playhouse.
Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm
Tickets are $10 per play, or $25 for a 4-play Festival Pass. 323-667-2000 ext. 354; www.NativeVoicesattheAutry.org