“Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz” – Catch it Where YouCan

The Hollywood Fringe is an annual festival of live theater that brings players from all over the world to small theaters throughout Hollywood. It’s mostly centered on theater row on Santa Monica Boulevard between La Brea and El Centro, but several other small theaters are also involved. It offers a chance to take in a live experience and to see something unique. After all these years in Los Angeles, and being an actress, for crying out loud – and I’d never been to the festival before last Sunday!

I heard about “Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz” through an actor in the play named Alan Tafoya. I ran into him at Callenders Grill during their groovy jazz evening on Fridays and we got to talking. Turns out he’s an Apache from near my neck of the woods in northern New Mexico. He told me about the play and I went on down for opening night to find that it’s part of the Fringe.

“I wish it to be remembered that I was the last man of my tribe to surrender my rifle”

– so said the defiant Chief Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Lakota. 

Sitting Bull, also a holy man of his people, had many visions, including the defeat of General Custer and his bunch of marauders at the battle of Little Big Horn. Later, a meadowlark spoke to him in a vision of his own death at the hands of his own people.

Sitting Bull had a really bad rep with the U.S. government. He was super worried for his people since they were often starving after having their food supply purposely eliminated or being kicked out of their homes or murdered outright. Custer may have lost back in 1890, but the descendants of the Europeans were coming out west by the hundreds of thousands and stealing land from the Lakota Sioux right and left. Someone came up with a nice word to call them – “settlers.”

Sitting Bull was a real thorn in their side because he could tell a whopper of a story with a song. The Sioux people love that. People were inspired by him to continue to resist. Then came the Ghost Dance. The Indians have always been big on ceremonies and this one turned into a movement. The Ghost Dance was a ceremony that promised that the Indian people would get their way of life back so it was pretty popular as you might imagine. The idea that the Indians could get their way of life back was also very threatening to the occupiers since that would interfere with their own plans for their destiny being made manifest.

The actors of “Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz” tell the story of the men and women from this piece of our country’s history with visible passion and remarkable talent. The story is narrated throughout by Little Sure Shot herself, an effective theatrical device, which makes for an interesting angle. What unfolds beautifully before us in the small theater is a story that is heartbreaking to be sure but it is also an inspiring example of resistance to oppression and of a love for a life that is whole and unbroken.

The tone of this resistance is mostly told through the art of song. Described as a “post-punk musical,” the score brilliantly and viscerally depicts the passion of the conflicts; and the power of the relationships between the various characters and the land itself.

This show is bound to go places. The writing is superb and the musical pieces are excellently written and performed. I’d love to see the soundtrack come out. I’ll keep City Watch readers informed of that eventuality. This is an important performance piece. Not only because it causes us to know who we are as a country but because its’ message of the struggle against wanton oppression boldly resonates today as we stand on the brink of the destruction of our planet.

In the words of Black Elk on the massacre at Wounded Knee, which took place not too long after Sitting Bull was murdered:

“I did not know then how much was ended….I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.”

We need to learn from that dream.

 

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Community Theater for the Community

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I don’t get out to the theater much; but, when I do, of course I hope it will be a treat. I’ll tell you what; you really couldn’t do better than to grab your last chance this weekend to take in the wistful-sweet “Sábado Mornings” at the Studio/Stage theater on Western Avenue in Hollywood. I heard about the play from a special invitation from director Melvin Ishmael Johnson and House Manager Earlean Anthony back in April when the show was in previews.

Melvin is a tireless creative powerhouse. He hosts the Quamran Report, which aired for over two hundred segments at Skid Row Studios in downtown Los Angeles. Skid Row is a community radio station that features stories affecting our diverse communities and especially in downtown. It encourages community participation in producing news, politics and culture. Their motto is “Where Anyone Can Do Radio.” Tune in now to check out a discussion on the state of community theater on the last segment of the Quamran Report at Skid Row. It features one of the actors from “Sábado Mornings.” Meanwhile, I’ll keep everyone posted on what’s happening at Skid Row as well as where the Quamran Report is headed next.

Melvin is also a playwright, a community activist and the founder of Veterans Community Theater Workshop. I’d been wanting to see Melvin’s work for a few years now. On Sunday, about an hour prior to curtain, I was working on my one woman show when I got a call from a writer/director friend reminding me about the performance. It was a lickity split decision. I said to myself, “Damn! The time is now!” Out the door I went.

The theater is a small, intimate affair – perfect for the poignant story of Eddie and Rosa played beautifully by Jonaton Wyne and Judith E. Ex LAPD cop Eddie is dealing with his demons when he meets Mexican-American immigrant Rosa, the shy but strong waitress who has some secrets of her own. I really don’t want to say too much about the show because it unfolds so beautifully and anyway I’m not a theater critic. Let’s just say, SEE IT!

There’s plenty of fun to be had both before and after the play with the friendly folks running the show. Prior to the taking our seats, we had a nice glass of red wine…

ORGANIC AND FROM FRANCE, I MIGHT ADD…

… a nice touch, not to mention the delicious tamales on offer at the end of the show.

DIRECT FROM MAMA’S HOT TAMALES!

Mama’s is a not for profit collective where you can sample tamales of various styles from several different countries. Until you know the difference between a Mexican tamale and a Salvadorean tamale, well, you really haven’t lived!

ONE TAMALE, TWO TAMALE…

There were one tamale and two tamale plates, with rice and beans. The one tamale plate was just six bucks and plenty for me – mighty tasty too, as was the stream of jokes from an actor named Isaac who was in attendance.

If you’re lucky, Isaac will be there again, passing out jokes in abundance. But you won’t need any luck to catch the memorable performances of Judith and Jonaton in “Sábado Mornings” and to chat with the creative duo Melvin Johnson and Earlean Anthony. Enjoy!

NEED TO KNOW:

Studio/Stage Theater

520 N. Western Ave.

between Clinton St. and Maplewood Ave.

For more information: 213-908-5032

Tickets are $24 General Admission; $15 for Seniors/Students/Military

Friday, May 13 – 8 pm

Saturday, May 14, 8 pm

Sunday , May 15, 5 pm