Te Ata World Premiere Spotlights Native Actors
Native American actors across Oklahoma and the nation are preparing to begin rehearsals for the world premiere of Te Ata. The groundbreaking production, set to debut in August, showcases the life of world-renowned storyteller and actress Te Ata Thompson Fisher (1895-1995); cast members represent tribal nations across the country.
Playwright and acting artistic director JudyLee Oliva (Chickasaw) sees the world premiere as a unique opportunity for Native American performers by offering the rare chance to display their talents as actors, musicians and singers.
“Sadly, there aren’t many opportunities for Native performers to appear on stage in productions that are historically accurate representations of the first Americans,” Oliva said. “Too often what is produced is filled with inaccuracies and stereotypes.
“This is a groundbreaking opportunity to present the life story of one woman who broke down the barriers of stereotypes and opened doors - not only for Native Americans, but particularly for American Indian women,” Oliva continued. “Te Ata’s life is a story of one woman who made a difference for all Indian peoples.”
In a career that spanned eight decades, Te Ata showcased her enormous talents in a one-woman show as she performed before presidents, kings and queens and peoples from all walks of life. The famed Chickasaw storyteller earned international acclaim for her talents during her lifetime, including being named as Oklahoma's first State Treasure.
Oliva said the play dramatizes Te Ata’s life while original music arrangements by Tucson composer Jay Vosk and lyrics by Oliva transport the audience from Te Ata’s life as a young girl to her triumphant career on Broadway and the return to her home and roots in the red soils of Oklahoma. Characters are based, in part, on Te Ata’s real-life friends and family.
It is a love story -- the love of her husband, her art, her home and her tribal heritage. It is a story of conflicting and dynamic worlds, both Indian and non-Indian cultures, shaping the performer. Finally, it is a story of perseverance, deliverance and poetic resolve for one of Oklahoma’s most beloved historic figures.
Oliva said this production offers a tremendous opportunity for the theater arts community in Oklahoma and across the nation to experience a never-before-seen work of national importance with such impressive American Indian and non-tribal cast members.
“What better way to showcase the true talents and abilities of Native performers than to capture and tell the story of an American Indian woman from Oklahoma who helped deliver the Native culture to audiences around the world?” Oliva said.
Twelve of the 13 roles have been cast with only the role of Dr. Clyde Fisher, Te Ata’s husband, remaining to be filled.
Cast members include tribal citizens from the Chickasaw, Sac and Fox, Cherokee, Mohawk, Muscogee, Seminole, Choctaw, Crow, Chippewa and Hidatsa nations.
Opening night is scheduled for August 5, 2006 on the very stage where Te Ata learned her craft at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. The opening evening also doubles as the inaugural dedication and renaming of the Troutt Hall Main Auditorium to the Te Ata Memorial Auditorium. Performances will continue at USAO through August 13. More information about the show and the production is available online at www.TeAtaWorldPremiere.com.
The Te Ata World Premiere is funded in part by the Chickasaw Nation, the USAO Foundation and East Central University. The Inasmuch Foundation, the Kirkpatrick Foundation and the Craig Foundation have provided additional funding.