Based in the Twin Cities, New Native Theatre is a new way of looking at, thinking about, and staging Native American stories. Created in 2009 by playwright, Rhiana Yazzie, NNT produces, commissions, and devises authentic Native American stories for the stage which means NNT’s artists are intricately connected to the concerns and voices of their communities. NNT’s plays are shorthand meant to be played for its most vital audiences, Native people, because when specific stories are made for Native community itself, they become undeniably powerful for the broader community too, no translations required.
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.
Our focus is on nurturing and developing Native American artists. Our immediate gaze is on the eleven tribes in Minnesota and the urban Twin Cities Native community, which has Native American community members that hail from around the country, like our Artistic Director who is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. Both the reservation and Twin Cities urban community make up about 70,000 people who have historically been shut out from meaningful professional theatre for a number of legal, cultural, and societal factors.
New Native Theatre has an open door policy, which means that any Native community member at any level can come learn and work with our company. Our company ages have ranged from ten years old to 70. But the majority of the people we’ve worked with have been late 20s to mid 50s. It’s clear that the folks we meet are not coming right out of high school looking to be actors and playwrights. Most have taken a circuitous path to theatre and our door is often the first they’ve knocked on. Our main focus is on Native adults because of the long history of determent from pursuing a career in theatre. We relish in giving opportunities to people that no one else considers due to age and ethnicity.
We are proud of our unique position because now our artists are regularly found on Twin Cities stages and in film/television. No other company in the Twin Cities, currently or in the past, has consistently provided training and opportunities for Native artists in the frequency, cultural sensitivity, and success that NNT has done in only eight years.