Randy Reinholz, Producing Artistic Director of Native Voices at the Autry, Stepping Down After 26 Years
Randy Reinholz (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma), Producing Artistic Director of Native Voices at the Autry, is stepping down after more than two decades leading America's only Equity theatre company devoted exclusively to developing and producing new work by Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, and First Nations playwrights. Reinholz, an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, is a producer, director, actor, playwright, and professor who has worked tirelessly to give prominence of place and voice to Indigenous theater artists. He passes the baton to Native Voices Ensemble Member, playwright, and actress, DeLanna Studi (Cherokee), who will serve as Artistic Director of Native Voices at the Autry.
"We thank Randy for his service and most of all for his vision, which he has graciously allowed the Autry to steward over the past quarter-century," said W. Richard West, Jr. (Southern Cheyenne), Autry President and CEO. "Native Theatre is at the vanguard of American theatre, and Native Voices is at the very forefront of this work. We look forward to collaborating with Randy in his emeritus role to move the field forward as he transitions to 'senior statesman' of the institution he has built."
Reinholz, along with producing executive director Jean Bruce Scott, co-founded Native Voices in 1994 at Illinois State University. The husband and wife team produced their first show at the Autry in 1999 and have been the Autry's theatre in residence ever since. Under Reinholz's direction, the company has produced 38 full-length plays, 26 New Play Festivals, and 9 Short Play Festivals, toured nationally and internationally, and held close to 300 workshops and readings with artists from more than 100 distinct Native nations from across North America. Many playwrights and artists have gone on from Native Voices to national acclaim."Twenty-six years ago, theatre professionals and academics couldn't name but a few Native American Playwrights," said Reinholz. "They didn't think they could produce a Native play because there weren't any Native actors. Now there are productions by and featuring Native Theatre artists across the nation." Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan has said, "Native Voices has changed the face of American Theater, or perhaps more accurately, helped make an American theater which looks more like itself." When Reinholz received the Association of Theatre in Higher Education's Ellen Stewart Career Achievement in Professional Theatre Award last year, one nominator stated, "Randy's lifetime of achievement and sustained contribution to honoring, research about, and moreover cultivation of Native Theater is impossible to overstate. The combination of testimonies, the artists whose work he has helped to mentor, produce and curate, the prolific theater practice and running of Native Voices, as well as his own playwriting and direction has shaped a movement in the field, and an awakening, not only filling gaps but transforming practices at an array of sites."
Off the Rails, Reinholz's reimagining of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure set in the old West, features seven Native American characters. It had a sold-out run at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and was the first play by a Native American produced at OSF in its then 82-year history. The production, directed by Bill Rauch, opened the door to numerous Native actors to become OSF company members. Beyond the impact Reinholz has had on the field of theatre by providing opportunities for Native playwrights to develop their work, Native Voices has been a training ground and spotlight in which Native actors continue to shine. As Rob Weinert-Kendt, editor of American Theatre has said "... if you're doing a play anywhere in the U.S. that requires Native actors, you need to go to L.A. and talk to Native Voices."Reinholz and Scott have been recognized with Playwrights' Arena's lee Melville Award and The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, Gordon Davidson Award. For more than a decade, Native Voices at the Autry has partnered with La Jolla Playhouse to present NVA's annual staged reading series and was funded by the Irvine Foundation for a two-year residency from 2016-2018 during which time Reinholz directed the critically acclaimed They Don't Talk Back by Frank Kaash Katasse (Tlingit). As Chief Gary Batton of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has said to Reinholz, "As an educator, director, producer, and playwright, whose roots reach back to Boswell, Oklahoma, you are bringing a Native voice to the American stage. Your vision, hard work, and talent are paving the way for future generations of young Native artists. For this, your tribe, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, is proud of you." In addition to co-founding and running Native Voices, Reinholz, who holds an MFA from Cornell University and a BA from William Jewell College, has been a university professor for 27 years, 23 as Professor of Theatre, Television, and Film at San Diego State University where he has served as Head of Acting (1997-2007), Director of the School of Theatre, Television, and Film (2007-2012), and Director of Community Engagement and Innovation for the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts (2012-2015). Reinholz plans to continue to direct, produce, teach, and write. His most recent play Under A Big Sky was developed by Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, University of Idaho, and Native Voices. He is currently Vice President on the board of trustees for the National Theater Conference and is Recording Secretary for the College of Fellows of the American Theatre. He is on the Los Angeles County, Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative Advisory Committee, La Jolla Playhouse' Leadership Council, the advisory board for The Last Frontier Theatre Conference, and recently served as Southern California Council Member for The Dramatist Guild of America. Reinholz and Scott will continue to collaborate with NVA in their emeritus status, moving beyond the day to day operations, to advocate for more equitable funding for Native artists and to champion Native projects and artists nationally.