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AlterTheater Presents PURE NATIVE Next Month

Pure Native tackles important themes in NDN country, including complex issues around identity and belonging and resource allocation.

AlterTheater's first show with in-person audiences since the pandemic began moves Bay Area theater closer to accurate representation for Native American stories. Pure Native is the story of a Haudenosaunee community, written by Haudenosaunee playwright Vickie Ramirez, and stars two Haudenosaunee actors, with costumes by a noted Haudenosaunee fashion designer, Iakowi:he'ne' Oakes.

Pure Native tackles important themes in NDN country, including complex issues around identity and belonging and resource allocation, with the main plot centering around a corporate proposal to bottle the tribe's water.

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy consists of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora nations, whose original territory encompassed New York state and stretched north into present day Canada, south past Pennsylvania, and reached the Midwest. It was the Haudenosaunee who made the first treaty with colonists, and whose Great Law of Peace is the world's oldest participatory democracy, providing the founding fathers with the inspiration for the U.S. Constitution.

Internationally renowned Seneca filmmaker Terry Jones stars as Gary, one of the leaders of the community, with AlterTheater artistic director Jeanette Harrison (Onondaga descent) co-starring as Gary's wife, Connie. Joining the cast is Eduardo Soria, last seen at AlterTheater in Rella Lossy Award winner Ghosts of Bogotá, with Erica Smith whose turn as Odessa in AlterTheater's The Amen Corner won her a Theatre Bay Area Award for Best Supporting Actress. Making his AlterTheater debut as Brewster is well-known salsero Manny Martinez.

"These are some exciting times to be a Haudenosaunee in the art world, whether it's being a playwright, actor and even filmmaker," says Jones. "When I think about the public perception about Native storytelling, there can be a strong notion about what those stories are about and what the characters should look like. Vickie's play Pure Native is a story about what happens when an agent of change-a corporate water bottling opportunity-is inflicted upon a Mohawk community by one of its own. AlterTheater's production reaches into the rich and often untapped artistic world of Haudenosaunee artists, including actors, directors and support staff. I have known Vickie for many years, and I am honored to make my stage debut in Pure Native."

"In 20 years of telling stories, I've never gotten to tell a story that reflects the kinds of conversations my family has around our dinner table," says Harrison, who also serves as AlterTheater's artistic director. "I'm so thrilled to be telling this story, and with this creative team."

""I'm very excited to share the story with the folks in the Bay Area. People on the West Coast understand that we're in a water crisis and what the stakes are in this play," says Ramirez. "I'm also thrilled to be working with such a gifted cast! And doubly excited to have fellow Haudenosaunee people involved directly in this production."

"Pure Native is a play about divided loyalties and beliefs on the microcosm of a Haudenosaunee Reservation in upstate New York," says Ramirez. "The Rez is not in good shape, jobs are scarce, and a recent flood has strained the already overburdened community. A prodigal son returns with a seemingly lucrative solution. He works for a large water conglomerate that wants to license the water rights of the Rez and build a bottled water factory. This means jobs and many new opportunities for the community. However, Brewster's old flame, Connie, is a vocal opponent."

AlterTheater will perform outdoors, in both the East Bay and its longtime downtown San Rafael stomping grounds. AlterTheater makes its East Bay debut, as part of California Shakespeare Theater's Community Circle. Pure Native begins performances at Cal Shakes, in the Upper Grove at the Bruns, then moves to downtown San Rafael. Instead of performing in a storefront along San Rafael's Fourth Street, AlterTheater will present Pure Native outdoors in Boyd Memorial Park.

"I'm looking forward to being outdoors, in the fresh air, telling stories," says Harrison. "We are collaborating with our new friends at California Shakespeare Theater, bringing Alter's work to the East Bay for the first time, and we're so happy to be working with Alter's hometown, the City of San Rafael."

Tickets: boxoffice@altertheater.org; 415-454-2787

Bring your own lawn chair/blanket: $10

Guaranteed chair: $35




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