Native Voices At The Autry Presents THE FRYBREAD QUEEN

By: Feb. 17, 2011
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Native Voices at the Autry continues its vital role as the country's only equity theatre company dedicated exclusively to developing work of Native American Playwrights with the world premiere main stage Equity production of The Frybread Queen, which runs from Saturday, March 12 through Sunday, March 27, 2011 (previews begin March 9), at the Wells Fargo Theater at The Autry National Center, Los Angeles. Written by esteemed playwright Carolyn Dunn (Muskogee Creek, Cherokee*) The Frybread Queen is a quietly poetic drama with all the haunting qualities of a Chekhovian tragicomedy -- Navajo-style. Native Voices' deep commitment to nurturing new works and seeing them fully realized is illustrated by this production, which is the culmination of the play's pivotal three-and-a-half-year development process shepherded by Native Voices. Robert Caisley, who served as dramaturg during the play's development, directs, and the four-member cast features Jane Lind (Aleut*) as Jessie Burns, Kimberly Norris Guerrero (Colville, Salish-Kootenai, Cherokee*) as AnnaLee Walker Hayne, Shyla Marlin (Choctaw*) as Carlisle Emmanuel Burns, and Elizabeth Frances (Cherokee*) as Lily Savannah Santiago Burns.

The Frybread Queen portrays three generations of strong, opinionated, passionate Native women bound by marriage and family ties who come together for the funeral of a beloved son, and in their grief confront long-simmering tensions and family secrets that threaten to tear them apart. The play addresses many of the challenges facing Native people across the country today, from the erosion of traditional values to the loss of family and tribe and ownership of belonging, elements that factor into the relationships of the women as they struggle to deal with their troubled situation. Each character has her own unique recipe for frybread, a Native American staple, all reflecting their individual attempts to assert some kind of "authority" over the past and to take some kind of control over the future. In competing, both literally and metaphorically, to be the real "frybread queen" in the play, they illustrate the friction between traditional Native ways and contemporary assimilation, from the grandmother's traditional use of lard to her daughter-in-law's "new-fangled" use of self-rising flour.

During The Frybread Queen's development process, the thought-provoking play was described by a theatre critic as "one of the most celebrated new Native American theatre pieces in the country." The play began its developmental evolution when it was selected by a national panel for Native Voices' 2007 Playwright's Retreat, an opportunity for beginning, emerging and established Native American Playwrights to work closely in shaping their plays with nationally recognized directors, dramaturgs and an Acting Company comprised of exceptional Native American actors, culminating in public readings. In September 2010, Native Voices co-produced a developmental production of the play with Montana Rep and The University of Montana School of Theatre and Dance. In November 2010, a reading of the work was staged as part of Native Voices' signature FIRST LOOK SERIES: Plays in Progress, which brings playwrights together with professional directors, dramaturgs, and actors for a workshop and public presentation at the Autry. The March 2011 performances of The Frybread Queen at the Autry National Center represent the play's first Equity production.

Four free special activities are offered in conjunction with the performance, including two post-performance "Talk Back" audience discussions with the cast, director, playwright and executive producers on Sundays, March 13 and 20 (after the 2 p.m. performances). In addition, Liz Frankle, literary manager of The Public Theater in New York, moderates an LA Native Women Playwrights Round Table with noted playwrights Carolyn Dunn, Larissa Fasthorse and Laura Shamas on Saturday, March 19 (following the 2 p.m. performance). Native Voices at the Autry also offers "The Frybread Queen & Court Drawing," a free, fun on-line quiz about frybread - with a top prize of a $200 gift certificate to the Autry store - culminating on Sunday, March 27 with a "queen" and three runners up being named to the honorary "2011 Frybread Queen & Court." To further celebrate frybread, the Autry's Golden Spur Café offers, for a limited time during the play's run, special frybread menu items created by chef Carolyn Baer that put a tasty modern spin on this old time classic.

*refers to the artists' tribal affiliation

Playwright CAROLYN DUNN (Muskogee Creek, Cherokee*) received a BA in Speech Communication from Humboldt State University, an MA in American Indian Studies from UCLA, and a PhD in American Studies and Ethnicity from USC. She is a wife, mother, daughter, journalist, teacher, poet, playwright and fiction writer born in Southern California, whose ethnic heritage also includes Seminole, French Creole and Cajun. Her work has appeared widely, including the anthologies Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest (2004), The Coyote Road (2007), Reinventing the Enemy's Language (1997) and Kenneth Lincoln's Sing With the Heart of A Bear: Fusions of Native and American Poetry. The author of many articles that have appeared in journals in the US, Canada and Germany, she is the co-editor (with Carol Comfort) of Through the Eye of the Deer (1999) and Hozho: Walking in Beauty (with Paula Gunn Allen); the author of a volume of poetry, Outfoxing Coyote (2001; and the co-author (with Ari Berk) of the children's book Coyote Speaks. She is currently visiting lecturer at San Francisco State in American Indian Studies, where she teaches American Indian Oral Literatures and was recently appointed managing director of the American Indian Resource Center and the Cultural Resource Centers at the University of California, Santa Cruz. A founding member of the Mankillers, an all-woman northern style drum group, she lives in Northern California with her husband and children.

Jane LinD (Aleut*) / JESSIE BURNS is an actress, director, choreographer, and playwright who began her professional career at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico and continued her training at New York University and in Paris, France. A co-founder of the Native American Theater Ensemble, she has performed in various productions by Peter Brooks, Hanay Geiogamah, Andrei Serban, John Vacarro, and Ellen Stewart. She was the female lead and choreographer for Donovan Marley's production of Black Elk Speaks, for which she received the prestigious awards of Best Choreographer from the Denver Drama Critics Circle and Best Actress from First Americans in the Arts. Her film and television credits include Percy Adlon's Salmonberries, the mini-series Return to Lonesome Dove, and the TNT production of Crazy Horse. She also performed in Alaska's Perseverance Theater's productions of The Vagina Monologues and Raven's Odyssey; the Cherokee Historical Society's Unto These Hills; the Theater of Yugen's production of Crazy Horse - Moon of the Scarlet Plums; and the Native Voices/Montana Rep production of The Frybread Queen last fall.

SHYLA MARLIN (Choctaw*) / CARLISLE EMMANUEL BURNS has a range of theatre credits, including Last Days of Judas Iscariot for UTM/Company of Angels; I Stand Before You Naked for Complex; Cent Theatre's On The Brink, 68; The Elephant and The Mayfly at the Berkshire Theatre Festival; The Frontier and Alphabet Play for USC/DRC; and Annex Theatre's Birdbath. Her extensive film and TV credits include Whatever It Takes (Sony); Lies and Alibis (Warner Bros.); Woo (New Line); Fashion House (MY TV); Saint and Sinners (MY TV); Minding the Store (TBS); Grace (32/12 Films); Spiritual Warriors (Gilgamesh Prods.); A Starbuck's Story (Anatomy Entertainment). Among Marlin's writing and producing credits are Still Standing for Theatre Asylum, and A Starbuck's Story, which garnered "Best Short" at the FAIF Film Festival. A graduate of the University of Southern California, she studied theatre and French.

Kimberly Norris Guerrero (Colville, Salish-Kootenai, Cherokee*) / ANNALee Walker HAYNE is a native Oklahoman and graduate of UCLA who has appeared on stage in Steel Magnolias, Canticle of the Plains, Three Sisters, and, most recently, in Steppenwolf's Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County, which she performed in Chicago, on Broadway, at The National Theatre in London and The Sydney Theatre Company in Australia. Her film/TV credits include Grey's Anatomy, Taking Chances, The Sopranos, Naturally Native, Hidalgo, and Seinfeld, to name a few. Additionally, she works with youth in tribal communities across North America, utilizing creative expression as a tool promoting personal development.

ELIZABETH FRANCES (Cherokee*) / LILY SAVANNAH SANTIAGO BURNS has appeared in such recent projects as The Lunacy Commission at the Kirk Douglas Theater; A Midsummer Night's Dream and Julius Caesar at Shakespeare Santa Cruz; Casa 0101's Detained in the Desert; a reading of Tombs of the Vanishing Indian with Native Voices at the Autry; Hamlet, directed by Lenka Udovicki; Songs and Dances of Imaginary Lands, directed by O-Lan Jones; and Soltonoff/ Findlay Project with Center Theater Group, among others. She holds a BFA from CalArts.

NATIVE VOICES AT THE AUTRY is the country's only Equity theatre company dedicated exclusively to producing new works by Native American Playwrights. The company has been hailed by critics as "a virtual who's who of American Indian theatre artists," "a hot bed for contemporary Native Theatre," "deeply compelling" and "a powerful and eloquent voice." Native Voices, which provides a supportive, collaborative setting for Native Theatre artists from across North America, was established as a resident company at The Autry National Center in 1999. It is widely respected in both the Native American and theatre communities for its breakthrough plays and diverse programming showcasing unique points of view within the more than 500 Native American nations in North America. Deeply committed to developing new works by beginning, emerging and established Native playwrights from across North America and seeing them fully realized, Native Voices has presented fully staged productions of 18 critically acclaimed new plays, including 12 world premieres, 7 Playwrights Retreats and 13 New Play Festivals, and more than 100 workshops and public staged readings of new plays. Native Voices is led by Founder/Producing Artistic Director Randy Reinholz (Choctaw*) and Founder/Producing Executive Director Jean Bruce Scott and maintains successful long-term relationships with New York's The Public Theater, Native American Public Telecommunications (NAPT), Washington's Kennedy Center, The National Museum of the American Indian and La Jolla Playhouse.

THE AUTRY NATIONAL CENTER, formed in 2003 by the merger of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage with the Southwest Museum of the American Indian and the Women of the West Museum, is an intercultural history center dedicated to exploring and sharing the stories, experiences, and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West. Located in Griffith Park, the Autry's collection of over 500,000 pieces of art and artifacts, which includes the collection of the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, is one of the largest and most significant in the United States. The Autry Institute includes two research libraries: the Braun Research Library and the Autry Library. Exhibitions, public programs, K-12 educational services, and publications are designed to examine critical issues of society, offering insights into solutions and the contemporary human condition through the Western historical experience.

Tickets to The Frybread Queen are $20; $10 for students/military/seniors (55+); and $12 for Autry members; groups of 10 or more save 40%. Previews are half price, and free for Autry members. Performances take place at The Autry National Center's Wells Fargo Theater, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA, 90027-1462. To purchase tickets, please call (323) 667-2000, extension 354, or visit


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