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Approaching Native Plays: A Conversation on Best Practices

5/26/2021 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM ET

This conversation and Q&A will examine Casting Native plays, Community Engagement, Common Misconceptions, Culturally Competent Dramaturgy, Allyship, and Challenging Conventions.

Panelists: Courtney Elkin Mohler, Ph.D., Bethany Hughes, Ph.D., DeLanna Studi

When:  Wednesday May 26 at 5:30 PM E.D.T.

Where: Online

Preparation Required: None

Bios: Courtney Elkin Mohler, Ph.D. (Santa Barbara Chumash) joined the faculty of the Theatre Department at Butler University in Fall 2017 as an Assistant Professor, where she directs productions for the department and teaches courses in Theatre History, Text Analysis and Critical Perspectives in Theatre.  Mohler holds a Ph.D. in Critical Studies in Theater from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she also earned her B.A. in Theater with emphases in Acting and Critical Studies. As a professional dramaturg, Mohler is working with playwright Vickie Ramirez on her new play Yah-Che-Wah-Kehn (Bitter)winner of the National New Play Network’s 2020 Smith Prize for Political Theatre.  Bridging her research and artistic interests, she also regularly directs and does dramaturgy for the professional Native American theatre company Native Voices at the Autry in Los Angeles and serves on their National Play Reading Panel. Her co-authored book Critical Companion to Native American and First Nations Theatre: Indigenous Spaceswas published in 2020 by Bloomsbury-Methuen Press.  Mohler received the 2019 Butler University Outstanding Professor of the Year in Research.

Bethany Hughes, Ph.D. (Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma) is an Assistant Professor of American Culture and Native American Studies at the University of Michigan. A cultural historian and performance scholar she holds a PhD in Theatre and Drama from Northwestern University and degrees in Drama and Musical Theatre from the University of Oklahoma and Friends University. Hughes’ research interests include redface in American theatre, the performance of federal Indian law, race, musical theatre, the business of producing theatre, and “Indian” themed material culture that invites embodied interaction (e.g. souvenirs, statues, tourist attractions). Her work can be read in Theatre SurveyTheatre Topics,, and Theatre Journal. She is completing a manuscript titled Redface: Race, Performance, and Indigeneity that explores the creation, circulation, and perpetuation of redface as a racialized performance practice that denies indigeneity and sovereignty to Indigenous peoples.

DeLanna Studi (Cherokee Nation) is the Artistic Director of Native Voices at the Autry. She has over 25 years of experience as a performer, storyteller, educator, facilitator, advocate, and activist. Her theater credits include the First National Broadway Tour of Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning play August: Osage County, Off-Broadway’s Gloria: A Life at the Daryl Roth Theatre, Informed Consent at the Duke Theater on 42nd Street, and Regional Theaters (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Portland Center Stage, Cornerstone, and Indiana Repertory Theater). DeLanna originated roles in over eighteen World Premieres including fourteen Native productions. A pivotal moment in her career was writing and performing And So We Walked: An Artist’s Journey Along the Trail of Tears based on retracing her family’s footsteps along the Trail of Tears with her father. And So We Walked has been produced throughout the country and was the first American play chosen for the Journees Theatricales de Carthage in Tunisia, Africa. In film and television, DeLanna can be seen in the Peabody Award winning Edge of America, Hallmark’s DreamkeeperGoliathShameless, and General Hospital.  She is a recipient of the Butcher Scholar Award, MAP Fund Grant, and Cherokee Preservation Grant. Since 2007, she has served as the chair of the SAG-AFTRA National Native Americans Committee.    

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A Note From Our Education Department:

Sharing your play with the world is an incredible rush—but it’s also unarguably terrifying. After an often isolating writing process, your work is exposed for everyone to see. We know just how vulnerable writers are in these moments, and we’re passionate about helping to navigate them.
Here at PlayPenn, we offer our students supportive opportunities to test out new work and hone their craft, providing them with a sense of camaraderie at all stages of their writing careers. Our PlayPenn classes encourage writers to bounce ideas off of one another, commiserate about industry challenges, and be inspired by the world-class writers and industry experts leading each course. We apply this same ethos to The Foundry, our intensive writers group for emerging Philadelphia playwrights; and to our public readings of our students’ works in progress throughout the year.
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