Native playwright's work to be performed in Tulsa Comedy takes satirical look at stereotyping

TULSA, OK 7/21/2005
Mama Earth Loves Lace is part of a trilogy by Ojibwe writer, Mark Anthony Rolo, a prize-winning journalist, and former President of the Native American Journalists Association. The play will be performed by Thunder Road Theater (formerly Tulsa Indian Actors' Workshop) as part of Summerstage, the theater festival hosted by the Performing Arts Center.

Officials say Mama Earth Loves Lace follows "a sexy Native con artist, Monique, and Trigger, her would-be mystery writer husband. Monique's latest plan for escaping reservation life is to seduce a professor at the University of Minnesota so he will put her in charge of a grant to research the 1842 affair-if she only knew what it was. Monique plans to use the money to buy her dream house and move up the social ladder."

Clarence, the couple's landlord, who suffers from extreme white guilt, is an unwitting accessory to Monique's schemes. He reduces the rent for her, runs her errands and massages her feet, while attending white/Indian reconciliation ceremonies on a regular basis.

Rolo says his title is in part a protest against the stereotyping of Native characters as wise and always in tune with Nature. As Mama Earth, Monique wants to be pampered and rich. The playwright says he avoids idealized portraits of Native people as well as romanticized caricatures. "If I do my job in finding real, human Native characters (and non-Native for that matter), then there will always be political and spiritual dimensions that come with them."

The play is described as containing abundant slapstick physical comedy and verbal wit. In order to secure her research job, Monique hosts a dinner party for the professor and his wealthy mother-in-law, who is providing funding for the project. She also promises to secure an expert on 1842-the most sought after Indian lecturer in America, Wesley Really Rolling Thunder, impersonated by her reluctant husband. Unexpected slip ups and a genealogical clue hidden deep in the History Center files hold the key to the play's surprise ending.

Although written as a farce, the play offers a sharp social critique. As Rolo said, “farce and tragedy are separated by a very thin line. I think they are the opposites of the same coin. The history of the Native experience, even today, is tragic. Humor through farce is a way we can find healing.”

The play is directed by Julie Little Thunder. Cast members include Jana Rhoads, Mike Evers, Cassidy Barnes, David Zeliff and Stephanie Penn. Mama Earth Loves Lace runs August 5 & 6, Friday and Saturday, in the Norman theater at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $8 for seniors and students; $10 general admission.