This Thursday Ryan Victor Pierce, founder of The Eagle Project, joins the cast and creative team of INFORMED CONSENT for a lively talkback on the topic “Reconciling Science and Culture” following the play’s evening performance at The Duke on 42nd Street.
Ryan “Little Eagle," a member of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribe, founded The Eagle Project in 2012 with the mission “to utilize theater, music, dance, spoken word, and film to dissect the American identity, while using the Native American experience, both past and present, as the primary means for which to conduct its exploration.” The Eagle Project officially launched in March, 2012 with the staged reading of WoodBones by William S. YellowRobe, Jr. at Playwrights Horizon.
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.
“One of the things I’ve grappled with in this play is that I’m a non-native, telling this incredibly sensitive story about a specific tribe. I’m still grappling with it, honestly. The play touches on a lot of themes beyond that court case, asking questions about identity. Are we the sum of our genetic makeup? Are we our memories? Who gets to tell the stories that are told in our society? There are themes about what gets passed down from mother to daughter, and how that inheritance goes far beyond the physical. I wanted to give the scientist a compelling personal narrative that parallels her professional interaction with the tribe, so I’ve fictionalized much of her story. That is, hopefully, deeply satisfying dramaturgically, but I’m determined to give the representative of the tribe as compelling a story, so I’m fictionalizing it as well. Telling a story inspired by real events, there’s a tremendous responsibility to honor the people involved, and not do more harm than good. And that weighs on me heavily.”
Deb will be joining Ryan in the talkback along with director Liesl Tommy and members of the cast. The producers engaged in a nationwide search to find an actor with tribal roots to play the critical role of Arella, the spokesperson for the unnamed tribe. DeLanna Studi, who won the role, is a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. A fierce advocate for Native American issues, she was elected Chairwoman of the President's National Task Force for American Indians of the Screen Actors Guild. DeLanna has recently re-traced her family’s footsteps along the Trail of Tears and is collecting stories for a live theatrical experience.
DeLanna recently spoke with the Huffington Post about her role in the play:
“Native women are either viewed as a princess, like some Pocahontas character, or we’re a victim,” she said. “For us, this is a huge step in the right direction for our women and how our women are portrayed onstage, because we’re usually relegated to the background. So it’s nice to have this opportunity to be a strong woman who owns the stage and is holding court.”
Join us for what promises to be a stimulating and memorable evening – or come to one of the four 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 Theatre through EST's partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.