Professor Hanay Geiogamah and Project HOOP Make the News

American Indian Performing Arts group formed to advocate for visibility and inclusion

Concerned over a lack of voice and inclusion a group of prominent American Indian writers, directors and performers has joined together to form two new organizations that will represent, promote and advocate for greater visibility and a stronger presence within the American mainstream theater industry.

In a national phone session last week the tribal artists agreed to establish the National American Indian Theater and Performing Arts Alliance and the American Indian Playwrights Guild.

“The American Indian community in America possesses an amazing roster of creative talents, particularly in theater and the performing arts,” Geiogamah said. “It will be an important goal for both of these organizations to bring full recognition and support to the wonderful work that has been done, is being done now, and will be done in the future to the attention of tribal people as well as to everybody else in America and the world.”

In the next several weeks organizers will work to have both the National American Indian Theater and Performing Arts Alliance and the American Indian Playwrights Guild fully organized and operating.

“We feel strongly that it is time American Indian people take full and complete control of ours stories and images in all theater and performing arts initiatives,” said Hanay Geiogamah, a playwright-director and founder of Project HOOP, the national American Indian theater and performing arts advocacy program located at the University of California in Los Angeles. “These two organizations will also create leverage for fundraising in an effort to provide critical support for American Indian artists and theater and performing arts organizations.”

Mark Anthony Rolo, a Bad River Ojibwe playwright and University of Wisconsin-Madison lecturer, said the Playwrights Guild will help American Indian dramatists in protecting and promoting the artistic and financial value of their work. “We want the mainstream theaters and funders to understand and recognize that our playwrights are the original, creative source of American Indian theater,” Rolo said. “The works they produce give voice to tribal communities and tribal people in all parts of the country, and we want the theater industry and funders to support our work.”

According to Rolo, the American Indian Playwrights Guild would serve Indian playwrights similar to the national New York-based Dramatists Guild, which represents a wide array of American dramatists.

Geiogamah said that the National American Indian Theater and Performing Arts Alliance will develop programs and services that will help strengthen, nurture and promote the work of American Indian theaters, performing arts groups and related groups in tribal  communities across the nation. “An important goal of the Alliance will be to promote a larger pubic appreciation and understanding of American Indian theater and the related performing arts. The Alliance will also promote, support and honor artistic talent and accomplishments.”

A who’s who of prominent American Indian theater artists joined in the founding session for the new organizations, including six leading playwrights. They include

Bruce King, Oneida-Ojibwe author of the acclaimed Evening at the Warbonnet; William YellowRobeJr., Assiniboine Sioux, whose work includes the well-known drama Grandchildren of the Buffalo Soldiers; Marcie Rendon, White Earth Anishinabe playwright based in Minneapolis and author of Songcatcher; Dianne Yeahquo Reyner, Kiowa tribal member who is the artistic director of the Kansas City-based American Indian Repertory Theater and author of  Weaving the Rain, as well as Geiogamah and Rolo.

Geiogamah’s plays include Body Indian and Foghorn. Rolo’s works include What’s An Indian Woman to Do? and The Way Down Story.

Other American Indian artists in the founding group include Steve Elm, Cherokee playwright and director and artistic director of Amerinda Productions in New York City, Diane Fraher, Osage tribal member, writer and director and executive director of Amerinda in New York, and Marjorie Tanin, Tewa tribal member and casting director who serves as national community liaison for Project HOOP in Los Angeles.

All writers in the group have been widely produced, published and included in anthologies, and many also have worked in film and television.

Source: News From Indian Country