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Minnesota Native News

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Minnesota Native News is a weekly radio segment covering ideas and events relevant to Minnesota’s Native American communities. Made possible by the Minnesota Art's and Cultural Heritage fund


Play Festival Shares Good Medicine

Reporter: Theatres have been hit hard by the pandemic, so adjustments are being made.

Now in its fourth year, the New Native Theatre Play Festival has gone online and expanded internationally. The festival is up and running December 3 through the 13th. Rhiana Yazzie is the theatre’s artistic director.

Rhiana Yazzie: So this festival is now a 10 day festival. It's all online and it is a world indigenous festival now. So some of the exciting performers that we have are from New Zealand, Sweden and Australia, we have many first nations folks from Canada that are also participating.

And then artists, native artists from all around the country who are participating in one way or another as an actor or performer in some way or storytelling.

Reporter: And many artists from Minnesota, including three playwrights, whose work is being produced by the theatre for the festival:

Rhiana Yazzie: The first play that we're producing, it's called Don't Put Your Moccasins Under Your Pillow and that's by Lini Wilkins. Who's a local Navajo, a playwright and performer and actor. And she's lived here in Minnesota for 20 plus years.

//Play rehearsal audio//

And also we have a play called The Great Return. And this is a play by a playwright from Northern Minnesota. Lara Gerhardson who is from Red Lake, White Earth and Leech Lake. The third play is called Iceman, the frozen protector by Zane Smith, who is Red Lake Ojibwe.

Reporter: So what does a play festival look like now that it’s online?

Some of the pieces are professionally pre-recorded and will debut at the festival, some performances include stop-motion animation. There will be film elements, some shadow puppetry. And some virtual plays will be done live.

And on top of the plays, there are poets and artist conversations. A really varied and diverse performing art experience.

Rhiana Yazzie: I think that's one of the gifts that the pandemic has brought is that we got to connect with indigenous organizations all around the world and we've had guests: Maori artists/guests, Aboriginal artists from Australia teach classes for us this year. Also guests from First Nations artists from Canada.

It's been really interesting, the brand new connections that we've been making and of course, continuing to nurture our relationships with Minnesota artists. And yeah, it's a really exciting festival.

Reporter: And New Native Theatre, which is based out of the Twin Cities, is bringing together so many Native artists from MN and around the world to focus on... Good Medicine.

Rhiana Yazzie: We were looking at 2020 all of our experiences. And we were thinking, what is the best way that we could contribute to the close of 2020? And we thought it would be great to put out some good medicine.

And so all of this festival has been curated with that in mind. So all of these plays and poetry readings and dance performances, they're all celebrating what it means to have performance be good medicine.

It's really amazing to see how so many indigenous artists around the world are thinking about healing.

They're thinking about where are we moving as a people? Where do we want to go? Where do we want to go from here and how do we heal and, and create cultures and societies that are positive reflections of our ancestry and taking care of our youth and being happy, healthy adults.

Reporter: The Fourth Annual New Native Theatre Play Festival runs Dec 3 through the 13th.

Check out New Native Theatre’s facebook event page and their website for more information.

New Native Theatre DOT ORG.

For MN Native News, I’m Leah Lemm.

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