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Embodiment and Native Theatrical Praxis

January 17, 2015
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Pictured Brenda Farnell, LeAnne Howe and Monique Mojica.  (Photo by Ric Knowles)

Pictured Brenda Farnell, LeAnne Howe and Monique Mojica working in the studio in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Ric Knowles)

Over the past four years I’ve been working on a new play coauthored with Monique Mojica (Rappahannock and Kuna).  I say “co-authored,” but I should include our design team and especially the lands we’ve been working on as co-collaborators in the process of developing a healing ceremony, or play. Our team includes designers Dustin Mater (Chickasaw), Marcus Amerman (Choctaw), Tyra Shackleford (Chickasaw), James Wallace (Choctaw), composer Jerod Tate, (Chickasaw), costume designer Erika Isherhoff, lighting designer Michel Charbonneau, props Tim Hill, anthropologist and embodiment praxis scholar Brenda Farnell (University of Illinois), body movement specialist Danielle Smith (Toronto), dramaturge and literary scholar Chad Allen (Ohio State University), and theater director and dramaturge Ric Knowles (University of Guelph). The four-year project, “Indigenous Knowledge and Contemporary Performance” has been funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research of Canada (SSHRC) and is about the recovery of indigenous knowledge, not Native victimization stories, per se.

The project addresses research questions about the recovery, renewal, and use of Indigenous forms and epistemologies in the creation and annotation of contemporary Native theatre and performance.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur research methodology is located within an embodied research/creation (or practice-based research process), meaning we’re using our physical bodies to locate certain stories that tribes wrote into the land as they were creating mounds and Earthworks across Native North America.  Since 2011, we’ve visited earthworks sites all across the continent from the Snake Mound in Peterborough, Ontario to the Bird Mound at Poverty Point, Louisiana and dozens of sites in between.  We also visited Mai Don mound site in southwest England such as in the photograph above.  Other mound sites include Nanih Waiya, (shown far below), and Newark, Ohio (below).  We hope to have the new play produced in 2016.   We also traveled to New York City’s Coney island Sideshow School in 2013 and learned how to escape from strait jackets, (pictured below) walk on glass, swallow fire.  I didn’t attempt to swallow fire, I knew I would freak out, inhale, and die with collapsed lungs.  All this research is going into the new play titled, “Sideshow Freaks and Circus Injuns.”  It’s complicated, I know.  Stay tuned for more updates on our progress throughout 2015!

straight jacketOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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