The story takes place at a brand new Native American center on Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis, the real-life site of a thriving Native community for almost a hundred years (a history of which I was embarrassingly unaware). The center is run by an idealistic young woman named April Dakota, and was paid for by her father, casino owner Robert. She's trying to win over the Native council, which includes elders and community leaders (and her father), who are less than convinced about her new ideas, and concerned about the finances to keep the center going. April befriends a young White woman named Esme, and the two bond over yoga and music. At first they seem to be on the same page about the center and the neighborhood, but Esme's talk about improving and "uptowning" the neighborhood with the help of her developer father begin to sound concerning, something April doesn't realize until it's too late. April and the council are forced to protest and use grass roots methods to save their neighborhood.
|the elder (Wes Studi) holds court (photo by Jaida Grey Eagle)|
The eight-person cast is terrific, and feel like a family. Excitingly, they're all making their main stage Guthrie debut in this play, although half of them are local actors who have been seen on other stages around town - Ernest Briggs, Adrienne Zimiga-January, Nathaniel TwoBears, and Kendall Kent (the only non-Native in the cast). The rest of the cast is L.A. based - Sheri Foster Blake, Kalani Queypo, Katie Anvil Rich, and Wes Studi, who has been a working actor in Hollywood since the '80s, from Dancing with Wolves (giving extra punch to the joke that his character was in the movie) to Reservation Dogs. It's an honor to see our local Native actors, as well as national Native actors, on stage at the Guthrie, and a long time coming. Larissa FastHorse recently became the first known female Native American playwright on Broadway with The Thanksgiving Play, and it's unfathomable that in 2023 we're still having "firsts" of things that should have happened decades ago.
|photo by Jaida Grey Eagle|
For the People is a funny, relevant, and inspiring new play featuring impressive technical effects and endearing characters embodied by a talented Native cast. It's the first play at the Guthrie that's by Native people and for Native people, but I encourage non-Native audiences to see it too, in order to learn more about and support our Native community. See it now through November 12.