Play examines a tribe at the brink of extinction
THE SANTA CLARA
May 12, 2016
It’s not every day that we’re asked to empathize with the Ku Klux Klan.
Yet Santa Clara’s latest play, “What Would Crazy Horse Do?” calls upon audience members to do exactly that. The controversial drama premiered May 6 in the Fess Parker Studio Theatre.
The story follows a pair of twins—the last remaining members of the fictional Marahotah Tribe—as they grieve the loss of their grandfather. Conflicts arise when the twins meet Evan Atwood, the first female leader of the Klan, who seeks their help in channeling a gentler version of the KKK. These two seemingly incompatible groups quickly discover they both grapple with similar questions—when is race separation simply racism and when is it essential preservation?
According to the playbill, FastHorse, a playwright and choreographer from the Sicangu Lakota Nation, drew her inspiration from a flyer in a museum exhibit. The document, dated from 1926, advertised a Klan gathering featuring a Native pow wow. Soon after, FastHorse found herself imagining a story about the descendents of those participants.
The cast actually met with the playwright the third week of Spring quarter and worked with her for the whole week.
First-year Maddie Tuck, who plays Atwood, said that meeting FastHorse was a tremondous help in preparing for the perfomance.
“It being a new play, an incredible and relentless story and being able to work with the playwright—it honestly just couldn’t get any better,” Tuck said. “Having the opportunity to work with Larissa was such an informative experience.Getting the chance to pick her brain and hear her passion was astounding. ‘Crazy Horse’ has definitely been the most transformative piece I have ever worked on.”
Assistant director and junior Drew Lazzeri first heard about the play in a theatre history course taught by the show’s director, Dr. Courtney Mohler. The professor, as Lazzeri noted, intentionally diverges from the accepted canon—she chooses instead to examine works often written by women and starring non-white characters.
Although “What Would Crazy Horse Do?” differs greatly from “traditional” pieces, Lazzeri welcomed the opportunity to tackle something current.
“So often as an actor you wrestle with the text, struggling to find the real meaning behind a phrase or monologue, but not with Larissa in the room,” he said. “We spent less time translating between cultures separated by space and more time showing people the world they live in now. ‘Traditional’ theatre is definitely relevant for the world now, but not as concretely as these stories.”
Overall, the cast hopes viewers will gain a greater understanding and awareness of the hardships that indigenous people face today and feel motivated to take action.
“Decolonization is so important and so possible and we can all do little things at the very least every day to make it a reality,” Tuck said. “I really hope ‘Crazy Horse’ makes people think, opens eyes and motivates people to action. It has been quite a blessing.”
“What Would Crazy Horse Do?” runs through May 14.
Contact Riley O’Connell at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.