'alterNatives' hammers down traditional stereotypes

"Everyone expects a Native play to have feathers and buckskin, but this is a modern play," says Thunderbird Theatre director Pat Melody.

Performed by Haskell Indian Nations University students, "alterNatives," authored by playwright Drew Hayden Taylor, involves debunking stereotypes of all kinds.

"It's about white stereotypes of Indians, Indian stereotypes of whites, Indian stereotypes of Indians - it pretty much takes every stereotype and shakes it, but it's done with a great sense of humor," Melody says.

The humor comes in the form of a motley crew of characters in a rather mundane setting: a dinner party. An American Indian literature professor, Colleen (Carly Jo Blemmel), attempts to throw a dinner party in order to learn more about her new boyfriend's past. Angel (Brad Horne) is a Native science fiction writer who has abandoned his old friends after meeting Colleen. His two worlds collide after Colleen invites some people from his past to the party.

Yvonne Stone and Bobby Rabbit, played by Natasha Ninham and Daryl Young, are self-described "alterNative warriors," part of a radical Indian movement beyond any group of radicals to which Angel used to belong. They have come to the party to steal Angel back from Colleen and to remind him of his history.

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Haskell students Daryl Young, left, and Holly Emmerich rehearse a scene from "alterNatives," a play about Native stereotypes.

The other two guests at the party are friends of Colleen: a vegetarian/veterinarian named Michelle (Holly Emmerich) and Michelle's husband, computer programmer/recovering carnivore Dale (Jim Dandy).

As at any dinner party, there is a certain amount of unease between the guests, three Native and three white. Even though Colleen tries to please everyone - by serving vegetarian lasagna AND roast moose - each guest has a different motive for being at the party.

Young says his character's main goal in the play is "to get his best friend to come back, and the pleasure of putting down his current girlfriend and her friends. Plus I get beat up, a big man thrown to the ground and pummeled by a woman."

Dandy, who plays Dale, says he is "just trying to survive the dinner party and trying to survive my beyond drunk wife, (Michelle)."

Perhaps the character who finds himself in the most uncomfortable position is Angel, trapped between his old friends and his new and trying to sort things out.





The show

What: "alterNatives," by Thunderbird Theatre When: 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday Where: Lawrence Arts Center, 940 N.H. Tickets: Adults, $10; students, $5; seniors, $8 Ticket info: 843-2787

"Angel finds himself in that rare situation where the past and the present are in the same room at the same time," Melody says.

While relationships and stereotypes are at the heart of the play, the cast agrees that the real reason to come to the play is for "a good laugh and an open mind" and to find out who's still eating moose at the end of the night.

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