Native American plays coming to town

2 scenes to be performed in 3 local venues

Photo by Sabrina Hemken College of Menominee Nation students, from left, Jeffery Rockman, Chris Powless, Angelina Hindsley, Isiah Powless, Sereen Powless and Destiny Ortiz-Nicholas rehearse a scene from “Protectors and Protesters.” The scene is one of two to be presented by the college at several northeast Wisconsin venues later in July.

College of Menominee Nation and the Oneida Community Education Center have spent nearly a decade producing Native American theater productions in Northeastern Wisconsin.

The two entities will embark on their most ambitious collaboration to date from July 25-28 — a show that tours to four tribal communities, including three in Shawano and Menominee counties.

The show will go to CMN’s Keshena campus on July 26, the Mohican Family Center on the Stockbridge-Munsee reservation near Bowler on July 27 and the Siga Funmaker Community Center in the town of Wittenberg on July 28. All shows start at 7 p.m.

The show will open July 25 at the Cultural Heritage Theater on the Oneida Reservation.

Under the direction of CMN faculty member Ryan Winn, the Wisconsin Native Playwright Festival works with beginner and established playwrights to produce new Native American plays in both stage readings and full productions. The process begins through playwriting workshops, followed by script editing, casting and rehearsals, and finally a full production that travels to Native American communities throughout Wisconsin.

The purpose of the festival is to encourage Native American writers, performers and technical staff to share their stories with their communities. The process is a natural continuation of the oral traditions that have always been a part of Native American culture.

This year, the production will stage two comedic plays that take place in a hotel suite.

Matthew Cornelius, Jamie Funmaker, Destiny Ortiz-Nicholas and JayCee Tourtillott wrote the first play, “Protectors and Protesters” during CMN’s spring 2017 playwriting course.

“Protectors and Protesters” tells the story of a family that is conflicted over whether to protect Wisconsin’s endangered effigy mounds or to stop the Back 40 open-pit sulfide mine in Michigan. With challenges on both fronts, they can’t agree on how to succeed, yet they’re destined to fail completely if they stay divided.

Workshop participant and veteran playwright Dawn Walschinski wrote the second play, “Bedroom Scene.”

The play tells the story of how Lori, a woman in her mid-30s, and Dennis, a young man in his early 20s, accidentally stumbled into the wrong hotel suite after meeting during a night on the town. The scene begins as they awake in a panic the following morning and then struggle to escape from their mistake unnoticed.

The shows are free to the public, and vendors will sell food and refreshments at all venues.