One of the best experiences of my life as a writer was the three years that I worked with Stone Soup Theater Arts, a now-defunct Off-Off-Broadway theater company run by Nadine Friedman and Leigh Goldenberg which mixed theater and political engagement. I authored or co-authored three plays for the company, for a total of five productions in New York and Philadelphia. (I also translated and directed a staged reading of Albert Camus’s Les Justes, which was also a fascinating experience.)
Here is my favorite play from that period:
The Ghost Dancers was a full-length play which Stone Soup commissioned and performed in 2008. It was meant to explore the theme of “Occupation,” which was very timely that year because America was occupying Iraq. The play explores our country’s longest occupation: the occupation of Native American lands.
It does so by combining two different eras: the final years of the 19th century Indian Wars, and the confrontations between the US government and Native Peoples during the 1970s. A number of historical characters — Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Black Elk, Wovoka, General Custer, General Crook, Little Big Man and Dickie Wilson — are presented as having lived on into the 1970s in a state of forgetful immortality, as if they and their people are in some sort of stasis. Thus, the government sieges of Wounded Knee in 1890 and 1973 blend together into one event.
The play was written in record time in early 2008. It was performed by Stone Soup on May 8-24, 2008, at the Sanford Meisner Theater in New York City, directed by Nadine Friedman. Stone Soup revived it for the New York Fringe Festival on July 21-30, 2008.