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Lakota History, Struggle Brought to Life on OWU Stage in 'Black Elk Speaks'


January 30, 2004

[ 'Black Elk Speaks' Cast Photo ] DELAWARE, OHIO -- The Ohio Wesleyan University Department of Theatre and Dance will bring the life of Black Elk, a Lakota medicine man, to the stage of OWU's Chappelear Drama Center Studio Theatre beginning Feb. 6.

The book Black Elk Speaks was written by John G. Neihardt in 1931, adapted for theatre by Christopher Sergel and premiered in 1972. The OWU performance is under the direction of D. Glen Vanderbilt, Jr., professor of theatre at OWU.

Black Elk Speaks tells the true story of Black Elk's life and the life of his people. Black Elk experienced his calling in a vision as a boy and he lived through many of the pivotal events in his Native American people's struggles including the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the death of Crazy Horse and the massacre at Wounded Knee.

"In telling his story, Black Elk was responding to the voices of his ancestors and for all Indian people," said Vanderbilt. That voice reminds us of tradition and culture and asks for peace, justice and hope. Our stage production seeks to join that voice and remind our audience not only what was lost, but also what may still be," added Vanderbilt.

A culturally diverse ensemble cast of fifteen OWU student-actors will tell the story of Black Elk in both narrative and dramatic form. All performers play multiple roles in the sweeping saga, and music and dance are used to punctuate the events and embellish the story. The epic, presentational style of the performance will make use of still and video projections, recorded voice and other theatrical devices.

The cast includes: Julia Albing, Corey Baker, Kevin Barron, Eric Carpenter, Danny Cohen, Kenneth DeAbrew, Eric Magnus, Meher Mumtaz, Brent Perrin, Bradford Sadler, James Scotland IV, Rachel Stephens, Elizabeth Stong, Michelle Tomlin and Erick Williams.

Lighting design for the OWU production is by junior theatre major, Emilee Pershing, costume design is by Jacqueline Shelley, and scene and projection design is by Vanderbilt. Brian Henry, a junior theatre major, is stage manager.

Black Elk Speaks does not contain graphic depictions of violence, although the means used to bring about the demise of Native Americans are mentioned and presented in a stylized manner. The material is appropriate for high school students and would be of interest to students of history and the original Americans.

Black Elk Speaks will run Feb. 6 and 7 and Feb. 13, 14 and 15 in the Chappelear Drama Center Studio Theatre at the corner of Park Ave. and Washington St. in Delaware on the campus of OWU. All performances begin at 8 p.m. except the Feb. 15 matinee performance, which starts at 2 p.m.

Tickets are available in the department office 9 a.m. - noon and 1 - 5 p.m., Monday - Friday, or by calling 740-368-3855. Ticket prices are $7 for general admission, $6 for faculty and staff and $5 for students with proper identification. Tickets may be reserved by calling the box office. Seating for this studio theatre production is by general admission, and the house opens 30 minutes before curtain time. Group discounts are available by calling the box office.