A fledgling theatre company in the Land of Enchantment tells Native American stories with both authenticity and imagination.

Published

Pregnant with hope, pregnant with possibility, and just plain pregnant, on Jan. 25, the very night before Two Worlds artistic director Kim Delfina Gleason was due to give birth to her first child, she hosted a monthly table reading at the 12-year-old Native American theatre company’s offices at New Mexico Community Capital in Albuquerque.

While the baby rumbled his soliloquy of intention to join his parents and the vibrant ensemble of Native theatre artists and community members his mom has so devotedly served since 2009, Gleason photocopied scripts, made a fresh pot of coffee, and taped a sign on the street door directing newcomers to the conference room—her swollen belly floating before her, balloon-like, as she moved through her paces.

As participants filed in, some of them seeming almost magically well suited for the multi-generational roles in Zee Eskeets’s drama Fadeaway being read that remarkable evening, Gleason greeted everyone warmly, handing out scripts and gently assigning parts. Some of the readers were complete tyros, curious strangers who’d seen an event notice on social media or who’d been encouraged to attend by a therapist at rehab, while others, like playwright Jay B. Muskett, whose play The Weight of Shadows will be produced by Two Worlds in June, were already part of the Two Worlds family.

“The community kept asking me what’s next, what’s the next show, pushing me to not give up,” Gleason said about her commitment to Two Worlds over the years. “People are asking a lot more, ‘Tell me what happened at Wounded Knee—let’s hear the stories.’ They need Native theatre to exist; really, it depends on me.”

Two Worlds was founded in 2006 by James Lujan, currently the Chair of Cinematic Arts at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, to professionalize the pool of Native actors available for hire in New Mexico’s bustling film industry. But when Gleason assumed the helm at Lujan’s request three years later, she realized there was no purchase in continuing to play savages and princesses, no matter how skillfully.

“I was done playing the poor little Indian girl who can put a feather in her long hair,” Gleason said about her own acting career. “Terry Gomez of the Comanche nation was writing powerful monologues for Native women, big characters. That’s what I wanted—I wanted to see more of that, and more contemporary stories in everyday settings. We’re real people, and not all of us have the same situations. We want to tell our own stories authentically and we don’t want the white society to tell our stories.”

Read the article at AMERICAN THEATRE MAGAZINE