Monique Mohica and Ric Knowles, Eds.: Staging Coyote's Dream: An Anthology of First Nations Drama in English, Vol. I

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Staging Coyote's Dream: An Anthology of First Nations Drama in English, Vol. I.

Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2003. 459 pp.


Staging Coyote's Dream: An Anthology of First Nations Drama in English, Vol. I.

Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press, 2008. 367 pp.

Ric Knowles and Monique Mohica, the editors of both volumes of Staging Coyote's Dream, are situated in Ontario. As a collaborator, Mohica brings her history of being nurtured by Spiderwoman Theatre and her experience as an actor and playwright and collaborator with Turtle Gals Performance Ensemble. She is a former artistic director of Native Earth Performing Arts. Knowles is Professor of Theatre Studies at Guelph University and an editor for Canadian Theatre Review. His books include The Theatre of Form and the Production of Meaning, Shakespeare and Canada, and Reading the Material Theatre; he is general editor of the book series Critical Perspectives on Canadian Theatre from Playwrights Canada Press.

The two volumes of Staging Coyote's Dream present a collection of twenty plays by fifteen playwrights, published between 1986 and 2004, Volume I ending in 2000 and Volume II beginning in 1996. The playwrights are Native American writers from both Canada and the US because, as the editors explain in their introduction to Vol. I, "the decision not to restrict the plays to those produced within the geopolitical boundaries of Canada makes two implicit claims. [...T]he right of First Nations peoples not to be subject to the political or legislative regimes of later-day nations; [and ...] a history that long precedes contact or colonization, that has not been superseded, and that cannot be circumscribed" (iv).

I make a point of situating the editors in Ontario because I believe this has a bearing on the choices of plays in these two anthologies. The playwrights who are included in these volumes are, for the most part, connected by the fact that they are "a family of theatre artists who share certain aspects of their heritage and certain experiences of the contemporary world" (iv). I understand this quite literally for the artists included seem to constellate around Spiderwoman Theatre in New York (Miguel, Borst, Mohica, Turtle Gals); the Centre for Indigenous Theatre, founded by Favel (Toronto); and Native Earth Performing Arts (Toronto), with which a number of the playwrights have been associated (Moses, Highway, Taylor, Nolan, Mohica, Dandurand). The exceptions to these constellations are Shirley Cheechoo, the founder of De-ba-je-ma-jig Theatre (also Ontario); Margo Kane and Marie Clements, west coasters; and William S. Yellow Robe Jr. from Montana. The "certain experiences of the contemporary world" may also refer to the post-colonial project of Native identity and the weight of experience of colonial oppression which haunts and is, indeed, the subject of many of the plays in these two volumes.

As a teacher and director of works by Native playwrights, I admit to some curiosity as to why these particular plays/playwrights are included in this two-volume anthology. Anthologies, by their nature, suggest an editorial rationale for their contents; Knowles and Mohica, in their introduction to the first volume, tell us that this is "a collection of plays that appeals to us and challenges us as editors" (iii). They take care to explain that they are not attempting a representative collection but an "eclectic selection" of plays and playwrights. This disclaimer notwithstanding, I would appreciate more elucidation of their choices, particularly as the second volume has little to offer by way of introduction and many of the playwrights appear for the second time, in their own right or as members of collectives. The second volume would gain by including the excellent introduction from the first volume which offers readers useful discussions of terminology in a field that is developing in resistance to western forms of theatre, while, of necessity, using western concepts to explain itself and its projects. …


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