Native Voices at the Autry, America's leading Native American theatre company, continues its tradition of excellence, developing works by new and established Native American Playwrights at its highly regarded PLAYWRIGHTS RETREAT AND FESTIVAL OF NEW PLAYS, and culminating in staged public readings of three intriguing new works on Friday, June 1, 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, June 2, 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., at the Autry National Center's Wells Fargo Theater.
Presented are THE HUMMINGBIRDS, an interactive, multimedia story of three musician sisters; THE BIRD HOUSE, a dramatic tale of an evangelical preacher and his sisters as they sort through the snarls of the past and an uncertain future confronted by economic downturn, corporate greed, and big oil's determined march to continue hydraulic fracking no matter the cost; and DISTANT THUNDER: A NATIVE AMERICAN MUSICAL, with sixteen production numbers and a cast of twenty by the mother-son team of celebrated choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Tony Award nominee for direction and choreography of Broadway's Swing!, and Shaun Taylor-Corbett (Blackfeet*), who performed on Broadway and in the national tour of In the Heights, with music and lyrics by Shaun Taylor-Corbett and Chris Wiseman.
Native Voices' highly respected PLAYWRIGHTS RETREAT AND FESTIVAL OF NEW PLAYS, introduced to Autry audiences in 2004, provides the opportunity during a weeklong retreat at UCLA for beginning, emerging, and established Native American Playwrights to work closely in shaping their plays with nationally recognized directors, dramaturgs, and an Acting Company comprised of exceptional Native American actors. The retreat concludes with public readings. Many works developed during this project have gone on to enjoy successful runs on Native Voices' Autry main stage and elsewhere, including the company's 2011 production of The Frybread Queen and its 2009–2010 season opener, Carbon Black.
Illustrating Native Voices' long-term commitment to the development process, the three plays showcased at the 2012 Festival of New Plays are in various phases of development, ranging from initial stages to near completion.
The first public reading of THE HUMMINGBIRDS, by Elizabeth Frances (Cherokee*), Kimberly Norris Guerrero (Colville, Salish-Kootenai, Cherokee*), and Shyla Marlin (Choctaw*), features the creative team of Jere Hodgin, director, and Kimberly Colburn, dramaturg. This interactive, multimedia experience in storytelling, which involves the audience through layers of social media, explores whether it's possible to maintain personal, familial, cultural, and artistic integrity in the age of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. In keeping with that theme, the playwrights collaborated on the play most often via texting and e-mail. The Hummingbirds follows the lives of Kat, Willow, and Adosha (performed by the playwrights), three Indigenous sisters from Santa Fe who work various jobs during the day and play the local music circuit at night. After they enter a competition for a major recording deal, they're launched into an all-out race for fame and fortune that forces them to walk the precarious tightrope between art and commerce, social networking and exhibitionism, family and band. During the performance, audience members play a role as they're encouraged to use their smartphones to text questions, comments, and/or photos via Twitter or Facebook that the actors may weave into the live performance through improvisation.
THE BIRD HOUSE, by established playwright Diane Glancy (Cherokee*), and directed by Robert Caisley with dramaturgy by Jean Bruce Scott, tells the dramatic story of an evangelical preacher and his timid sisters as they sort through the snarls of their past and face an uncertain future. Questions about family, faith, community, and the very soil they live on collide in a small West Texas town as they're confronted by economic downturn, corporate greed, and big oil's determined march to continue hydraulic fracking no matter the cost. Native Voices' Founder/Producing Artistic Director Randy Reinholz (Choctaw*), for whom Glancy wrote the preacher's part, performs the role in this reading.