Project HOOP - National Gathering 2006: The First Half


Native American playwrights, dancers, performing artists, community arts leaders and educators from all around Indian Country gathered on the campus of the University of California at Los Angeles March 23-26 for the Project HOOP National Gathering 2006: The First Half. It was the fourth national convening of Native American performing artists sponsored by Project HOOP over the past four years.

Designated as the First Half, the gathering was the first of a two-part Project HOOP conference for 2006 and featured workshops and activities centered on Native playwriting and development of tribal dance theaters and productions. Part Two, slated for late June, 2006, will focus on setting up acting workshops and also developing and presenting tribal community theaters and productions.

“The goal of the two-part conference is to demonstrate and fine-tune five working models for artists-in-residence projects to be conducted in tribal communities,” said Hanay Geiogamah, Project HOOP Principal Investigator and a UCLA theater professor. “We currently have three pilot projects underway in reservation and tribal communities that will provide development strategies for Native theater for young people, for Native actors and for community-based entrepreneurs and arts programming leaders who want to start up theater programs and production projects at the grassroots level,” he added.

Geiogamah pointed out that Project HOOP is in the midst of a four-year initiative to promote and develop Native American theater and performing arts in tribal communities. “In the summer and fall of 2005, Project HOOP conducted a national performing arts needs survey,” Geiogamah noted. “We surveyed hundreds of tribes and communities and asked a series of questions regarding the possibility of building an Indian theater in their community. What are the tribe’s artistic resources? Who could lead and participate? What benefits would the tribe or the community receive from this work?”

Geiogamah said 105 tribes and numerous individuals replied to the survey questions, and 98% conveyed strong interest and need for the HOOP artists-in-residence workshops.

A highlight of the three-day session was a master class in playwriting conducted by UCLA theater professor Edit Villareal. Native playwrights Annette Arkeketa, Mark Anthony Rolo, Marci Rendon, Terri Gomez, Robert Greygrass and James Luna participated in the class, the first in a series planned by Project HOOP.

Conference attendees also enjoyed an hour-long dance performance given by six guest dancers from the greater Los Angeles American Indian community and five members of the professional American Indian Dance Theater in UCLA’s Macgowan Hall 1340 Theater. The dance show was created as a component of the conference’s Dance Theater Workshop over a two-day period in which the AIDT members guided the guest performers through a step-by-step rehearsal and production process of creating a dance theater performance.

Following are excerpted comments from conference participants:

---- “The conference gave me the opportunity to work with community members to further their own skills and also to assist them in incorporating their ideas into a larger performance program. It was a very positive experience.” ----Marla Mahkimetas, member of the American Indian Dance Theater.

---- “This work is so vital to the varied Indian groups across Indian Country. It was very valuable and educating.” ----Paula Starr, executive director of the Southern California Indian Centers, Inc.

---- “This was a great conference. In order for Native playwrights to succeed, to break cultural walls that marginalize us, it is critical that we receive support and mentoring from professionals such as Edit (Villareal). HOOP should offer more master classes for aspiring, mid-level playwrights.” ----Mark Anthony Rolo, playwright, journalist, and adjunct professor of communications at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

---- “I thank you so much for the opportunity to be with all of the great folks during ‘The First Half.’ The dance workshop was a tremendously enjoyable and uplifting experience. I look forward to fruitful artistic collaborations between First Nations Composers Initiative and Project HOOP artists. It’s exciting to think about it.” ----Georgia Wettlin-Larsen, director, First Nations Composers Initiative, Minneapolis.

---- “The conference was very important in that it reconnected the playwrights in a productive manner. We received a lot of support. It was also uplifting to see the young performers and their dedication to their craft. This conference connects artists to their cultures in a very nurturing atmosphere.” ----Terri Gomez, playwright and director and performing arts instructor at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe.

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