Trust or Consequences…

A lack of self-trust brings consequences —  to a writer, the greatest consequence being an inability to create a true authentic work of art…

Recently, Native Voices at the Autry had readings of the four plays that were part of their 2011 Playwrights Retreat and Festival.  I went to all of the play readings, but the one play that stood out to me was Ungipamsuuka (My Story) by Susie Silook.  

Silook, a carver, sculptor, playwright and Alaskan native, showed up at the playwright’s retreat with two acts.  Instead, of rewriting those acts (which was the expected thing to do during the retreat); she wrote a new second act to sandwich between the two acts.  Her process for writing the new acts was so in-the-moment that the actors, director, dramaturge, etc. assigned to her play found they could not follow their business as usual plan for her play or for themselves during the retreat.  Nor could they help but attend to her as she delivered the pages breath by breath.  They had to allow her to birth it, right there in front of them.  Sometimes, to be born, the work spends all of the artist who is creating it, blasting through every fiber of the artist’s being until reaching the air… 

The play is autobiographical; it took us on a journey through Silook’s life – through the tragedies and therapy sessions that have fueled her art over the years.  Silook made the conscious decision to include therapy as part of the play.  She felt that as a culture, Alaskan Natives know tragedies first-hand but don’t always seek counsel.  Silook wanted to cover the road to recovery in a way that would inform and entice the audience to seek healing.  She wanted the play to have an ultimate purpose, a voice all its own.  Silook includes some of her sculptures in the play.  The stark beauty and spirit of her art pieces lift the symbolism of the play to a higher dimension.  Some of the pieces were carved from whale penis bone.  Some of the tragedy deals with rape. 

The play is magnificent and in my eyes, perfect.  While the story is beautiful and ugly at the same time, it triumphs as a story that leads the way to redemption…  I commend Susie Silook for her effort, for refusing to settle for a good play but pushing for a great one.  I commend Native Voices for trusting the artist and allowing Silook’s piece to become on its own terms…  I am excited that one day, I will see Ungipamsuuka (My Story) on stage…   Thank you, Susie Silook, for sharing your art


  • By jenniewebb, July 29, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

    Thanks, Robin, for allowing us to see Susie’s piece through your eyes, and words . . .

  • By Robin Byrd, July 30, 2011 @ 12:52 pm

    You’re welcome, Jennie. Thanks for reading.

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