Confronting convention: Discourse and innovation in contemporary Native American women's theatre

Tiffany Noell
Theatre, Arizona State University
February, 2014


In this dissertation, I focus on a subset of Native American theatre, one that concentrates on peoples of mixed heritages and the place(s) between worlds that they inhabit. As it is an emergent field of research, one goal of this project is to illuminate its range and depth through an examination of three specific points of focus--plays by Elvira and Hortencia Colorado (Chichimec OtomMico/US), who create theatre together; Diane Glancy (Cherokee/US); and Marie Clements (Mis/Canada). These plays explore some of the possibilities of (hi)story, culture, and language within the theatrical realm across Turtle Island (North America). I believe the playwrights' positionalities in the liminal space between Native and non-Native realms afford these playwrights a unique ability to facilitate cross-cultural dialogues through recentering Native stories and methodologies. I examine the theatrical works of this select group of mixed heritage playwrights, while focusing on how they open up dialogue(s) between cultures, the larger cultural discourses with which they engage, and their innovations in creating these dialogues. While each playwright features specific mixed heritage characters in certain plays, the focus is generally on the subject matter--themes central to current Native and mixed heritage daily realities. I concentrate on where they engage in cross-cultural discourses and innovations; while there are some common themes across the dissertation, the specific points of analysis are exclusive to each chapter. I employ an interdisciplinary approach, which includes theories from theatre and performance studies, indigenous knowledge systems, comparative literary studies, rhetoric, and cultural studies.