Friday, June 1, 2012

I Hear a DISTANT THUNDER, the First Native American Musical

Lynne with Randy Reinholz, Spencer Battiest,
Michael Wise, Shayna Jackson, and Noah Hunt
It has been my joy this week to watch the development process of a new musical – the first Native American musical! - by the mother/son team of celebrated choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Tony Award nominee for direction and choreography of Broadway’s Swing!, and Shaun Taylor-Corbett, who performed on Broadway and in the national tour of In the Heights, with music and lyrics by Shaun Taylor-Corbett and Chris Wiseman.

Lynne Taylor-Corbett
Directed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, with dramaturgy by Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony, it’s the tale of an attorney, serving as liaison between the U.S. government and Native American interests, whose good intentions unwittingly trigger a crisis in his tribe that seriously threatens not only its cultural interests but also the happiness of his childhood sweetheart. As he learns what it really is to be Native American in America, he struggles to redefine his life and where he belongs in the bewildering assimilation of past and present.

Loosely based on Shaun’s own life, Distant Thunder features more than twenty characters, the largest cast of any play developed by Native Voices to date. Darrell Robes Kipp, co-founder and executive director of the Piegan Institute in Browning, Montana, and Redman Little Plume, a Blackfeet Elder, are the play’s advisors. Among the reading’s actors are Marisa Quinn (Lipan Apache*), “Huilen” in the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2, and hip hop/gospel artist Spencer Battiest (Seminole*).

Shaun Taylor-Corbett
Both playwrights are experienced Broadway veterans. Shaun Taylor-Corbett played “Sonny” in the four-time Tony Award–winning, hit Broadway musical In the Heights, a role he also reprised in the touring production that played at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles in 2010. Lynne Taylor-Corbett earned a pair of Tony Award nominations for her direction and choreography of Broadway’s Swing!. Her choreography is also featured in the films Footloose and My Blue Heaven as well as for such internationally acclaimed dance companies as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, American Ballet Theatre, and New York City Ballet.

The first public staged reading of Distant Thunder will takes place Saturday, June 2 at 7:30 pm at the Autry National Center, Wells Fargo Theater, 4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles, CA 90027. The performance is free but reservations are requested. Reservations are almost at capacity but if you’re interested in attending call 323-667-2000, ext. 354.

Starring: Marisa Quinn (Dorothy Dark Eyes), Kalani Queypo (Darrell Waters), Geri Keams (Betty Still Smoking), Olivia Espinosa (Shareen Still Smoking), Noah Hunt (Jim Running Crow), Michael Wise (White Feather), David D. Schildt (Old Man), Spencer Battiest (Tonto), Shayna Jackson (Aiyana Buck), Roman Zaragoza (Smudge), Randy Reinholz (Raymond Buck), Ellen Dostal (Rachel), Carla-Rae Holland (Roberta/Thelma), and Robert Greygrass. Matthew Smedal is musical director.

For a complete look at the cast go to Native Voices’ latest blog entry located HERE.

*Refers to the artists’ tribal affiliation

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