November is Native American History month and students will have an opportunity after Thanksgiving to learn more about Native American history, specifically in theatre. Senior and Native American student Sierra Tumbleson (Lac Courte Oreilles Chippewa) will direct “The Thanksgiving Play” written by Larissa FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota) on Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec.10 at 2 p.m. at the DeWitt Theatre Arts Center.
The only places an audience can catch “The Thanksgiving Play” this year will be in New York on Broadway and Orange City. Tumbleson received special permission from the publishing company that owns the rights to the play after her advisor, Dr. Bob Hubbard, explained that Tumbleson is a Native student who was looking to direct it for her honors project.
Tumbleson shares a passion with FastHorse for Native American representation in the arts, making this play a unique way to show that passion, even in Orange City. “It is always hard to find Native representation in theatre. There are not a lot of actors,” Tumbleson said. “It is genius how she (FastHorse) goes about writing the play. It is about Native American Heritage month and how poor Native representation in theatre is, but the cast is all white people, so you can do it at a place like NW or anywhere because you don’t need Native actors to produce it.”
“The Thanksgiving Play” is a satirical comedy about four eccentric people trying to devise a politically correct Thanksgiving school play for Native American History month. The initial conflict in the story is when the group tries to hire a Native American actress from LA, but when she arrives, it turns out she is white. Trying to create the play goes hilariously wrong for the group. “It is an amazing play because it gets to a more serious undertone through humor but still does not preach to the audience,” Tumbleson said.
The play’s cast includes seniors Emma Geary, Mark Cooley Kaylee Maasdam and Sophomores Liam Nibbelink and Marissa Leraas, with Skylar Tumbleson stage directing.
Tumbleson is passionate about theater and her heritage, and “The Thanksgiving Play” is a way to blend the two passions. “I hope to educate people on what it looks like to be a Native person in the arts today,” Tumbleson said. She hopes the audience can leave the play asking what they know about Native American history and challenge that with what they learn from the play’s message.
After “The Thanksgiving Play” hits Broadway, FastHorse will become the first Native American woman playwright to be produced on Broadway. Tumbleson looks up to FastHorse and is applying what she learns from her to a future project that involves writing a full-length play about her grandparents’ love story on the tribe. After graduating from NW, Tumbleson will attend Northwestern University in Chicago to work towards her doctoral degree in theatre and drama and performance studies.