Rhiana Yazzie talks about New Native Theatre's debut

Categories: Theater
new native theatre.jpg
Photo by Rhiana Yazzie
New Native Theatre opens its first full production this weekend, The Dreaming Bundle: A play about dreams, at the Minneapolis American Indian Center. The play is the product of a series of workshops that the theater company conducted throughout the Native American community in the Twin Cities. Artistic Director Rhiana Yazzie, herself a nationally recognized Navajo playwright, says that one of the goals of the company is to produce work by and for the Native community.

City Pages: Can you tell me a bit about the process of working on The Dreaming Bundle?

Rhiana Yazzie: Since September I've been hosting workshops in different spots in the Native community. What we do during them are theater and writing exercises on the subject of dreams. As they were happening, I was gently introducing the concept of the play to the community, letting people know that the door was open if they were interested in acting. We ended up with seven cast members. We've mostly taken dreams from cast members and people who did workshops but who aren't in the play.   

CP: What are the dreams about?

RY: There are 17 of them, from a huge range of ages. We have a dream about parents being turned into robots and flying dreams. We had a dream where someone was in a pot of soup. Someone had a dream about the RNC in St. Paul--kind of an apocalyptic dream. There are dreams that tell the future. A couple of folks had dreams that came true. 

CP: What did you discover during this process?

RY: Dreams are really an important part of how we define ourselves to the community. When I introduced the concept, what immediately resonated with folks was that it's part of our cultural understanding that dreams are important. I also discovered that people get a lot of healing from dreams. I learned during workshops that there are certain themes that come up--like the theme of removal. There seems to be an historical memory that we are playing out during our dreams.

CP: What's the structure of the play?

RY: We have this ensemble of actors who are conscious of telling audience these dreams. A lot of it is woven together through music composed by Lyz Jaakola. That's been a real important aspect of the play. It brings everything together.

CP: How is New Native Theatre different from other theaters in town?

RY: I'm serving a specific community. I'm trying to be very aware of how that community functions--the way we live in the world and the way we relate to certain things. Artistically, we're different in that half of the theater is about community created projects by the community for the community. The other wing is existing plays by Native authors. 

The Dreaming Bundle runs December 10 through 19 at the Minneapolis American Indian Center (1530 E. Franklin Ave., Minneapolis). Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. with tickets $10 for adults, $5 for children). Sundays are pay-what-you-can at 6 p.m. For more info, visit www.newnativetheatre.org.
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