"Let me try to stimulate your imagination. There are 512 or so Indian tribes in the United States today. If each one were to establish and sponsor its own theater company, and produce just one new work based on its history, culture, and heritage, we would have 512 new works for the theater. And if only half of them were to do this - in some fantastical dream-come-true - then there would be 256 new Indian plays. The theater can help us in so many good ways. Theater is one of the most accessible of the performing arts, and we should begin immediately to create new Indian theaters."
- Hanay Geiogamah
(Kiowa/Delaware), Director, Project HOOP

About Us: Project HOOP

Project HOOP, as its name suggests, is a national, multi-disciplinary initiative to advance Native theater artistically, academically, and professionally. Project HOOP, originally funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is currently funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), and seeks to establish and develop academic and artistic programs in the field of Native theater. The purpose and overarching goal of Project Hoop is to establish Native theater as an integrated subject of study and creative development in tribal colleges, Native communities, K-12 schools, and mainstream institutions, based on Native perspectives, traditions, views of spirituality, histories, cultures, languages, communities, and lands.

The founders and co-directors of Project HOOP are Hanay Geiogamah, a member of the Kiowa-Delaware tribes from Oklahoma and Professor of Theater in the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television, and Jaye T. Darby, Ph.D., a leading theater educator and Assistant Professor in the College of Education at San Diego State University.

Of all the twentieth-century Native art forms rooted in tribal traditions, Native thater remains the most neglected due to lack of funding, scholarship, curriculum development, and staffing. Yet Native theater is perhaps one of the most viable for tribal communities and educational settings because of its high interest level for students, its high degree of grassroots community involvement, the versatility for unique tribal expression and cultural generation, and the potential for economic development. Through the advancement of Native theater programs, Project HOOP looks to the development of powerful cultural, spiritual, and economic pipelines throughout interested tribal colleges and communities and opportunities for Native students and community members to assume leadership roles in community, regional, and national theater, film, and television.

Project HOOP simultaneously combines academic and artistic program delivery in Native theater with community cultural development and economic empowerment for tribal colleges, schools, and their communities. Specifically, the initiative first developed and implemented a replicable two-year program that included core curricula, scholarly books, mentoring expertise, and a culminating community theater festival at Sinte Gleska University in Rosebud, South Dakota. Successful refinements of this pilot led to a multi-model design to increas flexibility and tribal community involvement in the implementation of the project in a variety of settings, including the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency, Montana, and other interested sites. This multi-model design encompasses ten educational models to enhance delivery of academic and artistic offerings and support the development of Native performing arts.

Project HOOP Models

Models 1-5 are programmatic and enhance post-secondary, academic programming

Model 1 - Two-Year Course of Study in Native Theater

Model 1 includes Introduction to Native Theater (Year One-2 semester or 3 quarter courses), and The Development of Native Theater in Tribal Communities (Year Two-semester or 3 quarter classes), summer workshops, Artists-in-Residence, and a culminating community student festival) to enhance existing Liberal Studies, Humanities, Native Studies, and/or Fine Arts programs.

Model 2 - One Semester or One-Year Course of Studying Native Theater

Model 2 focuses on Introduction to Native Theater (1 or 2 semesters), Artist(s)-in-Residence, and in-class and/or college-wide showcase of student projects to enrich existing Liberal Studies, Humanities, Native Studies, and/or Fine Arts programs.

Model 3 - Associate of Arts (A.A.) or Associate of Fine Arts Degree (A.F.A.) in Theater with an Emphasis on Native Theater

Degree concentration in Theater and implementation of the two-year course of study in Native Theater (Model 1) with supplemental theater courses to provide the basis of the two-year degree.

Model 4 - B.A. Major in Theater with and Emphasis on Native Theater

This model focuses on the implementation of a four-year course of study in Theater, with an emphasis on Native Theater, based on Model 1 with supplemental upper-division theater courses to provide the basis of B.A. major in Theater.

Model 5 - Native Theater Summer Session

Implementation of an intensive summer session to provide in-depth instruction in Theater and related areas to students seriously interested in the field.

Models 6-9 focus on curriculum and instruction and enhance K-12 and postsecondary programs

Model 6 - Dramatic Literature through Performance Model

Through the use of Project HOOP publications in Native American literature classes and performance techniques appropriate for college English, this model provides pedagogical approaches for teaching literature through performance to enhance critical thinking, deepen appreciation of literature, and integrate Native performance techniques as students study and dramatize scenes from a selection of Native plays.

Model 7 - Drama-in-Education Model for Teacher Education

The implementation of drama-in-education pedagogical approaches in teacher education to improve learning in K-12 teaching and schools for Native students. These approaches will draw on Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence theory and the importance of culturally responsive Native education.

Model 8 - Curricular Enhancement in Postsecondary Education

Implementation of the Project HOOP publications and selected curricular materials and/or engagement of Project HOOP Artist(s)-in-Residence in existing theater, literature, creative writing, education, and/or Native studies programs.

Model 9 - Curricular Enhancement iin K-12 education

Implementation of the Project HOOP selected curricular materials and/or engagement of Project HOOP Artist(s)-in-Residence for youth and K-12 schools.

Model focuses on community and professional development of Native theater

Model 10 - Theater Development for Native Communities and Cultural Centers

Implementation of Project HOOP Artist(s)-in-Residence to develop Native dance theaters and other forms of Native theater for Native communities. These programs will be adapted to the local tribal community (i.e., urban, intertribal, Lakota, Creek, regional, etc.).

To advance scholarship in Native theater, the UCLA American Indian Studies Center published three edited volumes for use with thses models: Stories of Our Way: An Anthology of American Indian Plays (1999) and American Indian Theater in Performance: A Reader (2000), both edited by Hanay Geiogamah and Jaye T. Darby, and Keepers of the Morning Star: An Anthology of Native Women's Theater (2003), edited by Jaye T. Darby and Stephanie Fitzgerald.

Project HOOP is the only comprehensive Native theater, education, and community development program of its kind in the United States. It offers a wide range of integrated academic, artistic, and cultural models for theater by, for, and about Native Americans, based on Native performing arts forms and infused with traditional ceremonial purposes. Because of its broad vision and inclusive approach, Project HOOP continues to generate a high degree of national interest among tribal communities and Native theater artists.