An abbreviated version of this story appears in the Sunday Life section of The Oklahoman.
Full circle: New Oklahoma Indigenous Theatre Company is producing the 10th Native American New Play Festival
EDMOND – In a mocked-up jail cell, four present-day women are arguing about the past.
“They had dancing. They had magnificent dances. It was a time of etiquette and manners,” expounds Carolyn Dunn (Cherokee/Choctaw/Creek/Tunica-Biloxi), who is playing the part of Spencer.
“And epidemics and child labor and don’t forget that creepy family stuff. Your Elizabeth did get proposed to – by a cousin,” interjects Misty Red Elk (Comanche), playing one of her estranged pals, Maggie.
In a rehearsal room inside the University of Central Oklahoma’s Mitchell Hall, the stars of “Neechie-Itas,” the featured play of the 10th annual Native American New Play Festival, were working last week on their Canadian accents, honing their comedic timing and, occasionally, engaging in historical debate.
“I play Linda, and she’s kind of the goofball, which is something different. Usually I’m cast as the wise mother, the grandmother or the spirit or something. And this year, I get to be kooky. I get to be funny … so I’m working on my timing and trying to get a lot of laughs,” said cast member and Festival Coordinator Maya Torralba, who Kiowa, Comanche and Wichita.
“Like every other woman, we’re finding our roots, our stories. We’re able to tell our own stories. It’s about four very strong women. … As Native women, there are tragic parts, but there are strong, happy, funny parts to our lives – and so that’s why we need to see is Native America women as a full person.