by Monica Whitepigeon, Reporter in Native Currents. Discussion »
Playing through March 27
Wells Fargo Theater, Griffith Park
Kimberly Guerrero (Annalee),
Shyla Marlin (Carlisle)
Los Angeles, California - For years, Native Americans have been in the process of reintroducing themselves to the rest of the America. So much fantasy and mystery has become a part of our definition, while this can be agitating at times to Natives, it is not something that we should completely dismiss. Interacting with spirits to overcome tribal obstacles can be seen throughout Native mythology. In “The Frybread Queen,” playwright Carolyn Dunn takes this ideology and puts it into contemporary times with contemporary Natives.
Set in modern day Arizona, the play brings together a broken family for a funeral with a refined sense of humor, drama, and love. Following the suicide of Jessie’s son, four Navajo women - grandmother Jessie (Jane Ling), aunts Carlisle (Shyla Marlin) and Annalee (Kimberly Norris Guerrero), and young daughter Lily (Elizabeth Frances) - are forced to deal with their pasts in order to save their futures. Taking place in Jessie’s house, the women are literally haunted by ghosts of the past and must confront issues of violence and abuse in order to save Lily.
Addressing multigenerational gaps, “The Frybread Queen,” allows all Native women to be able to relate to these characters. From trying to maintain traditional values to assimilating with urban cultures, the play showcases the struggle of preserving Native identities. While the play does contain supernatural elements, its main themes are quite common issues, even for non-Natives. All families have their secrets and demons they must accept and/or eradicate in order to become stronger.
Kimberly Guerrero (Annalee), Jane Lind (Jessie)
Since 2007, “The Frybread Queen,” has blossomed from a novel idea to a workshop exercise into a full production play. Beginning in Montana at Native Voice’s Playwright Retreat, Dunn was able to refine her story and characters throughout multiple sessions with actors, directors, and participating audiences. And thanks to the multitalented crew, the special effects for the ghosts were able to entrance audience members with neck-hair-raising results.
Native Voice is a theater company that supports Native American playwrights, actors/actresses, crew members, and directors. In 1993, Jean Bruce Scott and Randy Reinholz began the theater company with only five playwrights and over 100 members. Since then, Native Voice has produced eighteen plays and hosted more than 100 workshops for Native playwrights.
For this production, Native Voice has also teamed up with Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit organization catered towards battered and abused women and children, to inform and interact with the audience after each performance.
Photo credits: Tony Dontscheff
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