Quote of the Day: What April Dakota experiences in the play is common for many Native young people. Maybe they didn’t grow up with their culture, or maybe they did, but they weren’t paying attention. So they come back to places like Franklin Avenue to find their identity. Roya Taylor, local artist, storyteller and KFAI radio host, on the play For the People co-written by Ty Defoe and Larissa FastHorse. The world premiere of is playing at the Guthrie Theater through Nov. 12, 2023.
Traditional ways verses new ideas, family dynamics, and community are all themes in For the People. April Dakota (Katie Anvil Rich) is taking charge of the community center and has some big ideas. The committee, consisting of elders, her father, and another young person, have different ideas. When her new friend Esme Williams (Kendall Kent) takes an interest, things change in ways she didn’t expect, and the tension increases.
Director Michael John Garcés has assembled a stellar cast to tell this story, that was conceived by playwrights Ty Defoe and Larissa FastHorse with contributions from the community. Earnest Briggs plays Levi Mitchell, a community member, who adds humor and levity to the discussion. Sheri Foster Blake plays Daisy Childs, whose character makes me chuckle as I remember some of her funny lines and reactions to others, especially Herb O’Geezhik, played by Wes Studi. (You’ll know him from Dances with Wolves, The Last of the Mohicans, and Avatar, to name of few of his many screen roles.)
One of the most significant themes in this play is the relationship between April and her father, Robert Dakota (Kalani Queypo, who also has numerous screen credits, including Hawaii Five-O). She is seeking not only his support, but also approval. But, they don’t necessarily agree on what should happen at the center. The entire committee is trying to decide where some funds should go, what projects to support. A young community member, Sage (Nathaniel TwoBears) offers feedback, but the strongest voices come from the elders. Commissioner Bobbi Grey (Adrienne Zimaga-January) takes it all in, and tries to keep order, while hearing everyone’s input.
For the People is definitely a comedy. The audience had many laugh out loud moments. I also heard sighs and saw nods of agreement, or groans of disapproval, echoing what the actors were conveying on stage. The story also shows the conflict of generations, of new ideas versus traditions, and the difficulty in any community to blend them. Amid the laughs and tension, father and daughter learn to understand each other a little better. April learns how to stand up to an overbearing person, and the group discovers what they need to make them whole and to grow as a community. It is truly a beautiful story, well told, with an ending that offers both surprises and emotional connection.
The gorgeous set, designed by Tanya Orellana, is the interior of the center, which is pivotal to the community and this story. Costumes by Lux Haac. Lighting Design by Emma Deane, and sound design by Victor Zupanc. The technical team also deserves a shout out for the wonderful theatrics in this production.
You can see For the People at the Guthrie Theater through November 12, 2023.
I’m fascinated by the creative process, so I appreciated all the notes on the show and its development provided in the playbill. What we see on stage is a culmination of several years of work, interviews, and sharing of stories, as well as intense development as they were rehearsing this show. I stayed for the post-play discussion on Sunday where several actors shared their experiences. The creative team made changes up until opening night! What a thrill it must be to work on a new project like this one, that strives to include many voices, while developing into a cohesive story for us all to enjoy. Well done.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: What are some special elements about your community, or your personal history? What stories and traditions are passed down from generation to generation?