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DIRECTOR'S MESSAGE: Summer/Fall 2009

Summer 2009 is here, and it got a good kick-off push on Thursday, June 18 with the very first Project HOOP National Native Theater and Performing Arts Videoconference, a 5 Ĺ hour-long meeting of grassroots Indian theater and performing artists gathered in six venues around the nation. Iím writing this four days after the videoconference, and with my assessment of the event now pretty much complete, I can tell you that it was a very good conference---and we definitely intend to do it again, soon.

The idea of a national videoconferencing hook-up was a bit of a risky move, a bit radical, a bit scary, and a little daring. It had not been done before with Native artists participating, but we thought giving it a try would be a good way to bring more people into the conference. As it turned out, we did have more artists attending and contributing, including some high school students, college students, and a nice group of Indian theater veterans.

As many of you know, we have had five national HOOP gatherings, and four of these have been held here at UCLA. Yes, California has a very nice climate, the sun shines most of the time, itís warm, and Los Angeles is an exciting place to be. All of the earlier conferences were a lot of fun, very productive and informative, and we were honored to host many of you from your locations around Indian Country. I especially remember back in 2003, when we were able to bring the student members of the Thunderbird Theater from Haskell Indian Nations University to California. That was so much what Project HOOP is about, inclusion, empowerment, enlightenment, especially for your younger theater and performing artists.

But our conference budget only allowed us to invite 20 to 25 folks, to pay airfares, hotels, food, transportation, entertainment and various conference expenses. We were always aware that there were many others back home, in Kansas, in Minneapolis, in Oklahoma, in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, who would like to have traveled to California and be a part of a live HOOP gathering. Unfortunately, we just didnít have the funds to bring more than 20 to 25 for each gathering.

We brainstormed and came up with the videoconferencing option, thinking that this format would make it possible for us to have three to four times more artists taking part than in a live event. And we did have more, over 75 individuals at all the venues, and all of them were active, engaged, and happily entertained by the various production and play excerpts that were on the agenda. I felt a special buzz when we did the introductions of everyone at the top, meeting many new Indian theater people.

The videoconferencing format can help us with the important need to communicate and share with and support each other during this terrible economic downturn, and there are many fantastic things we can do with the technology for the next one, which we will have in late September or early October. We thank all who took part and contributed to this event. All of us on the hook-up now know that a strong current of creativity and determination continues to flow through our Indian theater community. And for that, a big aho, thank you.

Hanay Geiogamah
Professor of Theater, UCLA School of Theater Film and Theater
Director, Project HOOP