More Than Pocahontas, Less Than Matoaka – Dr. Bethany Hughes
Thursday, April 22, 2021
3:30 – 5 PM
Register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/more-than-pocahontas-less-than-matoaka-dr-bethany-hughes-tickets-149274777879
Beginning in 1807 with James Nelson BarkerÊ¼s and John Bray’s The Indian Princess and ending with John Brougham’s 1869 Pocahontas burlesque Po-ca-hon-tas American playwrights and audiences in the “Indian Plays” era were repeatedly drawn to the Powhatan woman, Matoaka. Pocahontas gave audiences an alternative to stoic warriors as they encountered Indians on stage. Though Metamora, a play and character made famous by actor Edwin Forrest, is often considered the benchmark for Indians on the nineteenth century stage, what could we learn if we focused instead on Indian women in Indian Plays? How might our understanding of redface evolve if we take into account the gendered dynamics of Native American representation in this era? What have we failed to notice by focusing on the famous male Indian and forgetting the female Indians in both leading and supporting roles? This talk begins to take up these questions by analyzing Pocahontas and Nima in Barker’s and BrayÊ¼s 1807 The Indian Princess; or, La Belle Sauvage alongside Nahmeokee in John Augustus Stone’s Metamora; or, The Last of the Wampanoag. Drawing on Indigenous feminist critique I perform dramaturgical and textual analyses to articulate the construction of women through redface. By attending to claims of historical accuracy, gendered social expectations, and the sexualization of Indigenous women that circulate in these texts, I argue that only when we forward Indian women in our discussion of redface can we clearly see the social and political project of racializing performance practices.
Bethany Hughes (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) is an Assistant Professor of American Culture and Native American Studies at the University of Michigan. A cultural historian and performance scholar she holds a PhD in Theatre and Drama from Northwestern University and degrees in Drama and Musical Theatre from the University of Oklahoma and Friends University. She is completing a manuscript titled Redface: Race, Performance, and Indigeneity that explores the creation, circulation, and perpetuation of redface as a racialized performance practice that denies indigeneity and sovereignty to Indigenous peoples.
Organized by Dr. Tria Blu Wakpa and co-sponsored by UCLA’s American Indian Studies Center, Center for the Advancement of Teaching, and Department of World Arts & Cultures/Dance