Native Voices at the Autry Presents A Continent of Stories

Native American Playwrights Bring Their Original Works to the Stage
November 12, 13, and 14, 2004

Los Angeles (September 7, 2004) --Native Voices at the Autry presents A Continent of Stories, a series of free play readings. Native American communities have always celebrated art and culture in their daily lives, as a means of self-expression and pride. However, bringing their experiences and stories to society-at-large has always been a challenge. Historically, Native Americans have had to compete with movies and theater works that presented them as one-dimensional figures in little more than loin cloths and feathers.

As cofounders of Native Voices at the Autry, artistic director Randy Reinholz (Choctaw) and executive director Jean Bruce Scott envisioned the creation of a theater initiative that would help develop new works for the stage by Native Americans. They brought their idea to the Autry National Center, and it has since turned into a unique four-year collaboration presenting some of the most intriguing and thought-provoking material found on the stage.

This year's plays are written, directed, and acted by a cast of Native American artists from around the country, telling their stories and presenting themselves the way they'd like to see themselves portrayed. The three playwrights participated in the June 2004 Native Voices at the Autry Playwrights Retreat held at Occidental College and sponsored by the Autry National Center to further develop their plays. There, they were teamed up with professional playwrights, actors, and dramaturges to workshop the plays that are now being presented. The results include a powerful mix of drama and comedy, joy and tragedy, myth and history.

Admission to all three readings is free; however, reservations are highly recommended. To RSVP, call 323.667.2000, ext. 354. All readings will take place in the Autry National Center's Wells Fargo Theater.

For images of the playwrights, please contact Yadhira De Leon at 323.667.2000, ext. 327, or

Friday, November 12, 8:00 - 10:00 pm

Asdzani Shash: The Woman Who Turned Into a Bear by Rhiana Yazzie (Navajo). Helen is forced to choose between temptation and devotion when the Maii (a modern-day coyote dressed in an old boyfriend's clothing) finds her working at St. Mary's retirement home. She faces the choice of becoming an animal or remaining human in this creative retelling of a Navajo myth that asks what it means to live, love, and die as an American Indian today.

Saturday, November 13, 8:00 - 9:30 pm

Stone Heart: Everyone Loves a Journey West by Diane Glancy (Cherokee). In this exciting new play about betrayal and choice, the story of Lewis and Clark's 1804-1806 Corps of Discovery is retold through the eyes of Sacajawea and York-the Shoshoni woman and black slave who courageously traveled to the sea and back on a perilous journey of the heart.

Sunday, November 14, 2:00 - 4:00 pm

Kino and Teresa by James Lujan (Taos Pueblo) Based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, this beautiful and poignant romance provides a look into the hearts and minds of two warring communities-the Taos Pueblo and their Spanish conquerors-in 17th-century Santa Fe. This exciting love story demonstrates the need to create a new world-a world free from the political maneuvering of power-hungry leaders on an unwitting path to their own destruction.

Kino and Teresa was chosen as the 2005 Native Voices at the Autry Equity Production and will be produced March 4-20, 2005, in the Autry National Center's Wells Fargo Theater, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. The November 14 play reading will be an excellent time to see the final staged reading of this much anticipated production.

Playwrights' Biographies

Diane Glancy (Cherokee) is a professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she teaches Native American literature and creative writing. She received her MFA from the University of Iowa. Glancy has published two books of plays: American Gypsy, a collection of six plays, from the University of Oklahoma Press, American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series #45, 2002; and War Cries, a collection of nine plays, from Holy Cow! Press, Duluth, Minnesota, 1998.

Her plays also appear in various anthologies, and she has published novels, short stories, essays, and poetry. Her latest book is Stone Heart: A Novel of Sacajawea. She has received the Native American Prose Award, an American Book Award, a Minnesota Book Award, and an Oklahoma Book Award. She is the recipient of a 2003 National Endowment for the Arts Award and the 2003 Juniper Poetry Prize from the University of Massachusetts Press for Primer of the Obsolete. Other awards include a Many Voices Playwriting Fellowship, Playwrights' Center, Minneapolis; the Five Civilized Tribes Playwriting Laureate Prize, Muskogee, Oklahoma; and a Sundance Native American Screenwriting Fellowship.

I write a lot about being in the middle ground between two cultures, having no clear sense of anything definite except the juxtaposition of fragments around a moving boundary. My sense of place is in the journey.

James Lujan (Taos Pueblo) is a writer and filmmaker from Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. From a young age, he has always had an interest in film and theater. While attending Stanford University, Lujan studied acting and intended to pursue a major in drama, but he encountered the reality of a lack of substantial roles for Native actors. As a result, he decided to concentrate on writing and directing, and, after being accepted to the USC School of Cinema-Television to pursue his graduate studies, he focused solely on film production. But the lure of the theater always beckoned. After a four-year sojourn in Los Angeles, Lujan returned to New Mexico and formed his own production company, subsequently directing the acclaimed documentaries High Strange New Mexico, Little Rock's Run, Inner Spirit, and Challenger: An Exploration of Art and Spirit. It was during his first years back in New Mexico that he was cast in a small part in a bilingual play called The Merchant of Santa Fe. A couple of years later, Lujan cowrote a play called Casi Hermanos based on the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which was met with enthusiastic response from the press and audiences. A few years later, Lujan was approached by the city of Albuquerque to write another play with an Indian subject matter. Lujan chose to write a story about the Spanish reconquest of New Mexico and deal with how the two cultures eventually learned how to live together.

Lujan applied this idea to the theme of Romeo and Juliet and out of this came Kino and Teresa, which was featured in the Native Voices at the Autry's 2003 Festival of Plays. In the meantime, Lujan is developing a screenplay called Fast Elk with the Sundance Institute's Native Fellows Program, and is also preparing to direct an independent dramatic feature, Dark Places of the Earth, in 2005.

Telling nontraditional stories about the Native American experience, stories that are accessible to the mainstream, has always been my number-one priority as an artist.

Rhiana Yazzie (Navajo) is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. A graduate of both the University of New Mexico and the University of Southern California, she is the former associate artistic director of the Wakiknabe Native Theatre Company in Albuquerque, where she wrote, directed, and produced plays; acted; and designed and constructed costumes. Her work has been performed and read from Alaska to Los Angeles. She has received a Panelist's Choice Award for her one-act play, Remnants of the Chinese Grandfathers, at the Edward Albee Last Frontier Theatre Conference, and she collaborated on and wrote her children's play, Cyber Mall, for a USC Theater for Youth program. The Long Flight was a finalist in the 2002 Princess Grace Playwriting Grant program and was one of four plays selected for the Jerome Lawrence One-Act Play Festival produced at the 24th Street Theatre in May 2001. In August 2001, her comedy The Duel received a reading at Native Voices at the Autry. Last May, she directed two fifteen-minute plays in the Playwrights Express festival at First Stage Theatre in Hollywood. This year, Yazzie was selected as East West Players' first James Irvine Foundation playwriting mentee, receiving a staged reading of her most recent play, Two in LA, this past November. In March 2004, she was the assistant director of Native Voices' Equity Production of Please Do Not Touch the Indians.

The stories I find fascinating, and the people whom I feel are worth taking note of on paper, play an extremely important role in this world that often goes unrecognized and whose voices often are never heard-and I know it is my role to write about these experiences.

About Native Voices Artistic Director

Randy Reinholz (Choctaw), cocreator and artistic director of Native Voices, has 20 years of experience in theater, film, and television in the United States and Canada as an actor, director, and producer. He was the executive producer and director of the critically acclaimed Urban Tattoo in Los Angeles and at venues in Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary, Canada; producer of The Baby Blues at Centre Stage of Pennsylvania; and director of the critically acclaimed Equity productions of Jump Kiss, The Buz'Gem Blues, and Please Do Not Touch the Indians. Reinholz received his MFA in theater from Cornell University. He is a tenured professor and Head of Performance in the School of Theatre, Television, and Film at San Diego State University.

About Native Voices at the Autry Executive Director

Jean Bruce Scott, cocreator and executive director of Native Voices, has developed over 30 new plays, produced 6 festivals, 31 play readings, and 6 plays: The Baby Blues, Now Look What You Made Me Do (recipient of a McKnight Fellowship), Urban Tattoo, Jump Kiss, The Buz'Gem Blues, and Please Do Not Touch the Indians. Television acting credits include series leads in Airwolf and Days of Our Lives, and recurring guest star roles in Magnum P.I. (Lt. Cmdr. Maggie Poole), St. Elsewhere (Roberta Sloan Erhlich) and ABC's Port Charles. Scott is a guest artist for California State University Summer Arts and the School of Theatre, Television, and Film at San Diego State University.

About Native Voices at the Autry

In 2000, the Autry National Center launched Native Voices at the Autry, a theater initiative devoted to the development of new works for the stage by Native American writers. This project brings established, mid-career, and/or emerging writers to the museum to workshop material with professional directors, dramaturges, and actors.

About the Autry National Center

The Autry National Center is composed of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian in Mt. Washington, and the Museum of the American West (formerly the Autry Museum of Western Heritage) and the Institute for the Study of the American West in Griffith Park. For more information about the Center, visit or call 323.667.2000.