In the second of five Thursday Night Talkbacks, Diane Fraher, founder of AMERINDA, and Muriel Miguel, founding member and artistic director of Spiderwoman Theatre, will be joining playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer and the cast of INFORMED CONSENT for a lively talkback about science, culture and “what’s different about how plays tell scientific stories” following the play’s August 20 performance at The Duke on 42nd Street.
Diane Fraher, a member of the Osage Nation, is the writer and director of The Heart Stays (2015), her second film. She writes and directs narrative feature films about contemporary Native Americans. Her films, she says, “explore the struggle of Native Americans to identify with traditional values within the context of modern society.” Diane is one of the pioneer Native artists who formed the New York Movement in Contemporary Native Arts in 1972, the only such documented Native American arts movement in the United States, outside of Santa Fe, NM. Her first feature-length narrative film, The Reawakening (2004), was the first feature film written and directed by a Native woman and wholly produced by Native people.
In 1987, Diane founded American Indian Artists Inc. (AMERINDA), a community-based multi-arts organization which provides programs and services to emerging and established Native American artists. AMERINDA is the only organization of its kind for Native American artists in the United States.
Muriel Miguel is a director, choreographer, playwright, actor, educator, and founding member and artistic director of Spiderwoman Theatre. She has directed almost all of the twenty original works for the theater produced at Spiderwoman since its founding in 1976. Spiderwoman Theatre’s defining mission is “to present exceptional theater performance and to offer theater training and education rooted in an urban Indigenous performance practice.” Muriel studied modern dance with Alwin Nickolais, Erick Hawkins and Jean Erdman. She was an original member of Joseph Chaikin's Open Theater where she performed in the groundbreaking works: Terminal, The Serpent, Mère Ubu and Viet Rock. She is an instructor of Indigenous Performance at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre (CIT) in Toronto.
The Native American experience is one of the central concerns of INFORMED CONSENT. Inspired by a landmark legal case involving the Havasupai Tribe of the Grand Canyon and Arizona State University, the play tells the provocative story of a genetic anthropologist whose passion for answers clashes with the belief systems of a culture unfamiliar to her. In dramatizing this conflict, INFORMED CONSENT illuminates many of the dilemmas facing working scientists – and all of us – today: the clash of cultures, the intersection of science and religion, the ethics of genetic research, questions of identity and how much we really want to know about ourselves.
Playwright Deb Laufer will also be joining the talkback on Thurday. Just a few days ago, Antwan Lewis, host of Good Day Street Talk on Fox5 in New York, asked Deb about her greatest revelation in writing the play:
“I have a real passion for science. I’m thrilled with the new breakthroughs with the genome, and by all breakthroughs in science. But the Alfred P. Sloan foundation, who are funding the play along with The Ensemble Studio Theatre and Primary Stages, sent me down to the floor of the Grand Canyon to spend a night with the [Havasupai] tribe at their lodge. That really cracked open the play for me in a new way. Because I had looked at it from the science perspective and when I saw how the tribe was struggling and how it’s affected them, that’s when I reimagined the play.”
DeLanna Studi, a member of Cherokee Nation, participated in the same television interview. DeLanna was cast to play Arella, the spokesperson for the unnamed tribe in the play, after the producers pursued a nationwide search for an actor with tribal roots. On Good Day Street Talk, Antwan Lewis queried her about her sense of the tribe’s concerns.
“I’m Cherokee so a different nation but we have similar issues. Most people don’t think of us as a modern day people. We make up just two percent of the population so no one talks about us. So until someone as courageous as Deb goes out and writes a play or talks about our issues, no one knows about them. We’ve been trying to tell our own stories but it’s helpful to have allies. . . . I’m thrilled to be able to play a contemporary Native woman. Most of the time I’m playing an Indian princess or a victim that’s usually in leather and feathers. To be able to play a strong Native woman who’s similar to the people I grew up with – my aunties, my grandma, my sister – you never get to see these women. So when I read this play and saw it was this strong Native woman going against this strong female scientist and the conflict that ensues – this is so empowering to me as a woman. I knew I could do this piece where I’m not sacrificing my gender or my culture.”
Join us for what promises to be a stimulating and memorable evening – or come to one of the three other scheduled talkbacks happening after every Thursday evening performance.
The Off-Broadway Premiere at The Duke on 42nd Street of INFORMED CONSENT by Deborah Zoe Laufer is being co-produced by Primary Stages and The Ensemble Studio Theatrethrough EST's partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.