In my professional life, I am an OB nurse. However, I have always felt the pull and magic of writing and creating.Â When I saw an advertisement for the Alaska Native Playwrights Project,Â I entered, and before I knew it, I was transported to the privileged realm of “real” writers for a week-long playwriting workshop, in Anchorage, Alaska.Â I was paired with Comanche playwright Terry Gomez as my mentor, and over the course of ten months, I wrote Cikiuteklluku (which translates in Yupik to “Giving Something Away”) with her guidance.
After a public reading at Cyrano’s Playhouse in Anchorage in November 2010, I submitted my play to Native Voices at the Autry. I was so pleased to learn that I was accepted and would be furthering my creative journey by attending the 2011 Playwrights Retreat and Festival of New Plays.
Since arriving in San Diego on May 28, I have been awed by all the talent around me.Â It truly is something remarkable to walk into a room of strangers and yet feel comfortable because we share so many commonalities.Â The meetings I have attended with my creative team have given me such insight into how a play comes to life and how costume and sets can enhance and affect my play.Â In fact, given what I have learned in the course of those meetings, I think I will always factor in those considerations when I am in the process of creating a new play.
During the week we attended the play August: Osage County at the Old Globe Theatre. One of the cast members, Kimberly Guerrero, is also in The Woman Who Was Captured By Ghosts, another play being workshopped for the festival.Â Seeing this play was a tremendous treat. I was enthralled with the actors, the set and the amazing dialogue. I wanted to sob with happiness!
Theater is such an amazing avenue for expression.Â I am from rural Alaska, and although my people are very creative, we don’t really have plays in our communities. In fact, other than a play we saw in a small theater in Anchorage during our initial Alaska Native Playwrights Project workshop, August: Osage County was my first experience in seeing a fully produced play on stage.
Taking what I have learned at this retreat, I would like to mend that gap in our culture.Â I think it would be beneficial to depict life in our experiences and communities on stage, allowing us to vent our frustrations or happiness while mutually fulfilling our need for creativity.
I feel blessed with the creative team that Native Voices paired me with.Â I am aware that a great deal of consideration went into the selection of the actors, dramaturg and director for each playwright and their play.Â I have felt a connection with them and have been so honored by their collaboration and contributions to Cikiuteklluku.Â They brought my characters to life and helped me make my words better and enriched.
Because of my subject matter (a girl’s decision to pursue adoption of her baby outside her rural community), I have had days when I felt overwhelmed.Â It is a situation wrought with emotion, and judging from the reactions Cikiuteklluku has created, it has also made others think about their own experiences in relation to the play.Â When people shared their feelings connected with the play, I came to a revelation: what we are doing — as playwrights, actors, directors, dramaturgs –Â is important and essential not only for our understanding of the world around us but also because of the questions the play raises for an audience comprised of both Native and non-Native people.
Equally essential is my need to write plays, to explore and let out my hurts and frustrations and maybe help others in some manner, even if it is just to put a smile on their faces.Â Thank you to all of Native Voices at the Autry for opening this door for me.Â I am grateful beyond words.
Native Voices at the Autry’sÂ 13th Festival of New Plays presents staged readings by four Native female playwrights, June 16-18 at Wells Fargo Theater, the Autry National Center, 4700 Western Heritage Way, LA, 90027-1462. TICKETS: $10/play or $25/ four-play festival pass; half price for students, senior and military; free for Autry members. 323-667-2000, ext. 354 , www.NativeVoicesattheAutry.org.
Cikiuteklluku (Giving Something Away) by Holly Stanton (Yup’ik*), directed by Ed Bourgeois with dramaturgy by Shelley Orr, is about a young Yup’ik girl from rural Alaska who faces heartache when a non-Native couple adopts her baby. Thursday, June 16 at 7:30 pm.
Holly Stanton (Yup’ik Athabascan) is from Bethel, Alaska, where she has been a Registered Nurse since 2004. Although this is her first foray into playwriting, she contributes occasionally to the local newspaper in Bethel. She is married to Michael Stanton, and they have four children, three stepchildren, and one grandchild. She considers her family her greatest accomplishment in life and is proud that all her children appear to be artistically inclined to both drawing and writing.
*refers to the artist’s tribal affiliation