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NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH: Celebrate Native Theater At 'Indians in America: Native American Athletes Take the Field,' a Short Play Festival

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Today at the Autry Museum in Los Angeles, as part of the American Indian Arts Marketplace, celebrate Native theater. Native Voices at the Autry continues its vital role as the country’s only equity theatre company dedicated exclusively to developing the work of Native American playwrights with its Short Play Festival, featuring six engaging short plays written by veteran and first-time playwrights, on Saturday, November 3, 3 pm, at the Wells Fargo Theatre at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. The festival's theme, “Indians in America: Native American Athletes Take The Field,” honors the 100th anniversary of Jim Thorpe’s (Sac and Fox*) Olympics achievements. Thorpe, described as the greatest athlete of the 20th Century, won Olympic gold medals in 1912 for both the pentathlon and the decathlon and played professional football, baseball and basketball. Each of the six plays range from five to fifteen minutes in length and has a sports theme, inspired by a charcoal drawing of Thorpe that was donated to Native Voices by noted artist/author Christopher Canole (Sac & Fox*). One of the plays will be selected for the 2012 Von Marie Atchley Excellence in Playwriting Award, a $1000 cash prize, by a national panel of judges.
The featured plays are:

SOCCER DAD by GARY HARRINGTON (Comanche*), who holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and has written, produced and directed short films for more than ten years. The play involves a man at his son’s soccer game recalling his own experiences playing sports in Oklahoma amidst discrimination, and he begins to recognize the connecting force that sports plays in his family.

THE RECORD HOLDERS by DENNIS TIBBETTS (Ojibwe*), who served in Vietnam and earned a Ph.D. in counseling using the G.I. Bill. In his play, Truman Gordon is a track legend at his old university, and Jaiden Fairbanks is the young athlete expected to break Gordon’s 30-year-old record. Though they are a generation apart, they soon find that their stories of struggle are not all that different.

STICKS by BRET JONES (Muscogee Creek*), director of theatre at Wichita State University. Jones’ play tells the story of three old friends who reunite for a game of stickball, once a simple game that now weighs heavily as the baggage from their adult lives seeps into this not-so-friendly match.

CHAMP by LUCAS ROWLEY (Inupiaq*), a member of the Alaska Native Playwrights Project and an avid hunter and fisherman who takes pride in his traditional subsistence lifestyle. In Champ, a young gamer, while practicing for a video game competition, tries to convince his grandfather, a Vietnam vet, that video games are a sport and that they, too, can have a positive impact on their lives.

THEY SHOOT BASKETBALLS, DON’T THEY? by attorney and first-time playwright CLAUDE A. JACKSON JR. (Pima/Hopi Indian*). The play is about Robert, an NBA scout, who first meets Mugsy, a short, no-name Pima basketball player, and at first he doesn’t think much of his game. But if Mugsy and his coach play their cards right, the scout could be in for a big surprise.

HOME OF THE RUNNING BRAVE by DARRELL DENNIS (Shuswap*), an accomplished playwright whose one-man show, Tales of an Urban Indian, was nominated for two Dora Awards, toured Canada and was produced by New York’s Public Theatre and Native Voices at the Autry. In the play, Tom Harding has wanted to be an Olympic runner ever since he was young. Now that he’s got the chance, he wants to run under the sovereign flag of his tribal nation, but the Olympic Committee has other ideas.

The Short Play Festival, held in conjunction with the Autry American Indian Arts Marketplace, is free with admission to the Autry American Indian Arts Marketplace ($12, $8 for students, seniors and children; free for Autry members).

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Darrell Dennis (Shuswap*) is a First Nations actor/writer/comedian from the Shuswap Nation in Canada. His feature-film adaptation of his highly successful one-man show, Tales of an Urban Indian, was one of 13 international screenplays accepted into the prestigious Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Dennis’s script Moccasin Flats was also accepted into the Sundance Film Festival and became a television series on the Showcase Network. Dennis co-wrote and hosted Revision Quest, which ran four seasons on CBC Radio and won the prestigious New York Festival Award.

Gary Harrington (Comanche*) has been writing, producing, and directing short films for more than ten years. His short films have screened at such venues as the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco (2010); the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, California (2008); and the Rhode Island International Short Shorts Film Festival (2007). Harrington is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma and a graduate of Cornell University (B.A. English) and Harvard Law School. He lives with his wife and two children in Marin County, California.

An attorney working for Gila River, Claude Jackson Jr. (Pima/Hopi Indian*) is the son of the late Claude Jackson Sr., a member of the Gila River Indian Community, a Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation, and part Hopi, and Lupe D. Jackson, a Mexican American. Although he has admired theatre for years, They Shoot Basketballs, Don’t They? is his first attempt at playwriting. Jackson and his brother, Robert, are currently producing a feature-length film set on Gila River. He would like to thank Native Voices for offering this creative outlet for young playwrights.

Bret Jones (Muscogee Creek*) is the Director of Theatre at Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas. A published author and playwright, his play The Isolation House ran at the American Theatre of Actors in New York City, and Thee and Thou was recently published by Heuer Publishing. Two of his Native American plays—Kindred and War Paint—won the Garrard Playwriting Award sponsored by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum. Another, Native Skin, had a workshop staged reading at Native Voices at the Autry in Los Angeles. Recently, his comedy screenplay The Gray and the Blue was listed as a Top Ten Finalist in the Barebones Film Festival, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Jones lives in Goddard, Kansas, with his wife, Julie, and their three children.

Born and raised in the artistic community of Homer, Alaska, Lucas Rowley (Inupiaq*) is of Inupiaq and Scottish heritage. He has previously had five play readings and one production in Anchorage. Winner of Native Voices 2011 Von Marie Atchley Excellence in Playwriting Award for his short play Raven One, this will be his second reading in Los Angeles. Lucas has made the playlab selection for two years in a row at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska, and this summer he received a prestigious Rasmuson Award, allowing him the opportunity to travel to his grandmother’s home village above the Arctic Circle. Rowley is a member of the Alaska Native Playwrights Project, an avid hunter and fisherman, and takes pride in partaking in a traditional subsistence lifestyle.

Dennis Tibbetts (Ojibwe*) is an enrolled member of the White Earth Ojibwe of Minnesota and Wyoming Wind River Shoshone. Raised in the Detroit area, he was drafted by the Marines and served in Vietnam in 1967 with the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. Using the G.I. Bill, Tibbetts received an education that led to a Ph.D. in counseling from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has worked as a clinical counselor and as an associate professor at a number of universities, including the University of Michigan and the University of California–Santa Cruz. He currently lives in Marina, California.

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 produced 21 critically acclaimed new plays, including 14 world premieres, 9 Playwrights Retreats and 18 New Play Festivals, and more than 150 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 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 the contemporary human condition through the lens of the historical Western experience and explore critical issues in society.

NATIVE VOICES AT THE AUTRY is located at the Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA, 90027-1462. For reservations or additional information, call 323 667-2000, ext. 299 or visit