A History Lesson Facilitated by Art

by Fanny Garcia
of The Los Angeles Theatre Center in Los Angeles, CA
Volume VI. Jan-April 2013

On February 23rd, 2013 I attended a live streaming of Marcus Gardley’s one act prologue to his play, the road weeps, the well runs dry, at the Los Angeles Theater Center. The event was a collaboration between the University of South Florida School of Theatre and Dance, The Studio@620, #NewPlayTV, Lark Play Development Center, and the Latino Theater Company at the Los Angeles Theater Center. The LATC’s Theater #1 proved to be the best place for such a performance – the large screen and comfy movie theater seats made me feel like I was at a Hollywood premiere without the paparazzi.

I closed my eyes and focused solely around Gardley’s mythological language. Listening to the radio reading transported me to the super natural atmosphere of his play. I imagined a time when rain wasn’t just water falling from the sky, it was the Breath Maker laughing, leaning his head back and weeping tears into a well in response to a medicine man’s dancing (Gardley).

Gardley’s use of mythology prompted me to learn more about Los Angeles’ Native American history. Luckily, I live about ten minutes away from the Autry National Center which is home to Native Voices at The Autry, the only theater space in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to developing the work of Native American playwrights. Native Voices is a partner of the Lark Development Center’s Launching New Plays national initiative and will provide the Latino Theater Company’s production with outreach and marketing support for the road weeps, the well runs dry. While visiting Native Voices, I was able to see the last show of The Bird House by Cherokee playwright Diane Glancy.

Before the show started, I browsed through the production’s program and discovered that the actor’s Native American heritage was specified next to their name. Together, the talent represented the Choctaw, Seneca, Mohawk, French Canadian, Lakota, Ojibway, and Shuswap nations. The audience too was made up of members of these tribes who had come in groups to support the play. Prior to the show, the production’s lighting designer acknowledged the land on which the Autry National Center had been built and the people who inhabited it – the Los Angeles Basin was first settled by the Tongva (or Gabrielino) and Chumash Native American tribes. Connecting the Native American audience at Native Voices at The Autry with the road weeps, the well runs dry which intertwines African American and Seminole nation mythology is vital to the success of the production. By doing so we will a taking a lesson central to the play – sharing resources leads to the survival of communities. In the case of Launching New Plays, it will ensure the survival of an important piece of art.

Gardley and McClinton

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