By David Walters
Founded in 1976 (yes you read that right, 1976), Spiderwoman Theater is the world’s longest-running Native American women’s theater company. The name comes from the weaver in the Hopi creation story, they seek to blend traditional Native American art forms with western theater constructs. Please click on the link above to read about the company and the founder’s fascinating and tumultuous history, especially if you’re a theater buff.
They are currently working with the Canadian company Aanmitaagzi, creating the show Misdemeanor Dream. Three years along in the development process, the production will culminate in performances at La Mama in 2021. Put that on your calendar if you plan that far ahead. I was able to catch one of a three-night work-in-progress presentation that was presented by Abrons Arts Center.
The Misdemeanor of the title is a take-off of mid-summer (as in Mid-summer Night’s Dream), in that fairies have assembled to cause mischief, mayhem, malfeasance, and to tell their stories and sing their songs. What used to be considered wrong, is now only a misdemeanor and a slap on the wrist. Fairies can get away with a lot now.
With a company of 13 actors spanning the ages (that was one of the many exciting parts of the evening, the large age range and theatrical history that was up on that stage that night), the evening was a cacophony of delights, a stage littered with stardust as the company worked together to share cultural stories and personal journeys.
What I saw was a work in progress, still needing crafting, but the framework was strong, filled with life yearning to be free and fly to the heavens. And as heaven, one of the major themes of the show was that we are all stardust, and go to the stars when we leave here. That concept laid a strong foundation for what they are trying to say and share with this piece and with their work.
Spiderwoman Theater is not done yet, not with this presentation nor their work in reflecting the history and stories of Native Americans who are and have been. I look forward to the next iteration.
This is the fourth stage in a five-part process launched in March 2017 at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada, that will culminate in a world premiere in February 2021 at La Mama