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1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Oct 1, 2014

I Interview Playwrights Part 695: Mary Kathryn Nagle

Mary Kathryn Nagle

Hometown: I am from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Current Town: New York, NY (Manahatta!)

Q:  Tell me about Sliver Of A Full Moon.

A:  SLIVER OF A FULL MOON is the story of a movement that achieved the inclusion of a tribal jurisdiction provision in the 2013 re-authorization of VAWA and restored tribal sovereignty to Indian tribes to prosecute non-natives who commit crimes against Native women on tribal lands. In 1978, the Supreme Court decided that Indian tribes no longer had jurisdiction to prosecute non-natives who commit crimes on reservations. The story is told from the perspective of Native women survivors, who join professional actors on stage to tell their real-life stories. www.sliverofafullmoon.org

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I am continuously re-writing MANAHATTA. The workshop production this past May at the PUBLIC gave me an amazing opportunity to learn about the play in a way I never imaged possible, and now I am doing my best to make sure I incorporate everything I learned into the script!

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  My grandmother loved to tell stories. As a child, I spent my summers escaping the Oklahoma heat inside her living room, listening to her stories. Of all the stories she told me, three's one that remains firmly implanted in my mind. Whenever she would tell this story, her faces would swell with pride. She would gesture to the photos of the two men that hung permanently affixed to her wall. The two men, Major Ridge and John Ridge, my grandmother explained, were my great-grandfathers. John Ridge was her great-grandfather, and Major Ridge his father.

In 1832, President Andrew Jackson was trying to exterminate our people. My grandfathers, along with Principal Chief John Ross, took the Cherokee Nation's case all the way to the Supreme Court. Together, they demanded justice. And as a result of their efforts, Chief Justice Marshall issued his decision declaring the Cherokee Nation to be a sovereign nation with the right to exist within its own borders. President Jackson, however, refused to enforce the Supreme Court's decision.

Instead, President Jackson forced my people to walk along the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma-- where my grandmother told me this story. Along the way, more than 4000 Cherokee died. When my family arrived in this strange new land we now call Oklahoma, fellow Cherokee brutally assassinated my grandfathers. Because they failed to fight for the Cherokee to stay in their ancestral homeland until the very end (and in the end agreed sign a treaty with President Jackson and go peacefully to Oklahoma)-- they were considered traitors. Today they are buried just a few rows down from my grandmother in the Cherokee Cemetery on the northeastern edge of the Cherokee Nation reservation.

Someday, I will be buried in the same cemetery, next to my grandmother and my grandfathers. until then, I will work tirelessly to write and create Native theater until the racial stereotypes President Jackson used to promote the genocide of my people are fully eradicated from the American stage. We are not there yet- but I won't stop until we are.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  The lack of Native theater that created by authentic Native voices. When will we see Native plays produced that are written by Native playwrights?! What will it take to put the original possessors of this soil on the American stage? (and I mean, MORE than just a staged reading or workshop production!)

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Paula Vogel first and foremost. I had the chance to meet her in person a couple of years ago and I actually started crying--which was unexpected and very embarrassing. But she handled it very graciously and gave me a hug!

Also: William Yellowrobe, Caryl Churchill, Diane Glancy, Theresa Rebeck, and Sam Sheppard.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theater that doesn't merely perpetuate ideas or stereotypes we've already seen. Theater that challenges our socially constructed collective consciousness.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Write and write and write and write. Write thru the bullshit and never give up. That's the only way to get to the good stuff! And if you read the plays you love and ask yourself, what does this playwright do well that I could also do well? I learned how to write plays from reading the works of all the folks listed in the answer to the question above.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Well-- SLIVER OF A FULL MOON has already taken place, but you can watch it on YouTube thru JOE'S PUB's website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMVeYMj7EJY

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