New Native Theatre Presents A Christmas In Ochopee

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By Noreen Quadir

Join the Wheetleys, a loving Miccosukee family living in the Florida Everglades, as they try their best to prepare their holiday feast among the chaos of secret fiances, competitive lawn decorating, basketball gambling, and alligator wrestling in “A Christmas in Ochopee”, is a comedy produced by New Native Theatre that runs November 29th to December 17th at the Red Eye Theater in Minneapolis. It will be their first production since being named a 2023 recipient of Headwaters Foundation for Justice 2023 Bush Prize.

The Bush Prize recognizes New Native Theatre’s approach to decolonizing the theater ecosystem and creating a living expression of indigenous storytelling that centers Native artists and audiences. The theatre has a new way of thinking about, looking at, and creating authentic Native American stories for the stage. Based in the Twin Cities, it is the most frequently producing and largest professional Native American theatre company in the Midwest focusing exclusively on Native American playwrights, actors, directors, and audiences.

Artistic Director, Rhiana Yazzie, said “It’s an honor to be recognized for a prize that often goes to organizations fighting injustices in the social sector. Being a theater that brings the Native American experience to the stage, we can’t do business as usual, we must redefine what theater is and make it accessible and relevant to Native community.”

A Christmas in Ochopee was written by Miccosukee playwright Montana Cypress who is also a filmmaker and actor, and is the winner of the Von Marie Atchley Excellence in Playwriting Award and was a Semi-Finalist for the Eugene O’ Neill Playwriting Conference.

New Native Theatre Artistic Producer, Charli Fool Bear says, “When planning our season, it was important for us to capture the joy and humor found in Native community. In A Christmas in Ochopee, Montana perfectly captures so much of the Native experience: large, loving, and dysfunctional families, sibling rivalry, a love of basketball, and above all, a reverence for community. Despite taking place in sunny Florida, I think this hilarious story will resonate with all of the different nations represented in the tapestry of Minneapolis’ Native community.”

The play features both up and coming and seasoned Native actors, typical of New Native Theatre’s aesthetic including, Bradley Lewis, JaLisa McKee, Thomas Draskovic, Genevieve Lane, David Valentine, Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra, James Harvin, and Roya Taylor.

Artistic Producer, Trey Porter, added that the production features an Ojibwe clothing designer, “We have the pleasure of working with Amber Buckanaga, a New York Fashion Week featured designer and founder of Buckanaga Social Club, who will create our costumes!”

New Native Theatre, based in the Twin Cities, is the most frequently producing and largest professional Native American theatre company in the Midwest focusing exclusively on Native American playwrights, actors, directors, and audiences.

According to their website: “Since 2009, NNT has created authentic and transformative plays and events through the lens of the Native American experience. Artistic Director, Rhiana Yazzie, enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, started NNT to bridge the gap between the 100 theatres in town and the large urban Native community. NNT engages artists and audience by 1) Producing commissioned and existing plays by Native playwrights. 2) Producing community created plays about cultural and social justice topics. 3) Presenting the best Native American productions from around North America. 4) Providing an array of theatre training to Native American community members. 5) Engaging in collaborations with Native artists and Native organizations of varying artistic disciplines.”

A Christmas in Ochopee runs Wednesdays through Sundays between November 29th and December 17th. Tickets are pay-what-you-can with a suggested price of $35. Audiences can buy tickets on New Native Theatre’s Brown Paper Tickets event page, achristmasinochopee.brownpapertickets.com.

For more details, contact New Native Theatre at 612-367-7639, by email at info@newnativetheatre.org, or visit www.newnativetheatre.org.

For ticket info, email: boxoffice@newnativetheatre.org.