Muriel Miguel is director and co-founder of Spiderwoman Theater Company, the oldest Native women’s theater ensemble in North America. She speaks with Eric Alan about using theater and storytelling to shed light on issues such as violence against women, and gay and lesbian relationships in Native nations. She was in residence at the UO from May 10-16, 2015.
In May 2015, UO Theatre Arts professor Theresa May’s Women and Rivers Project (CSWS faculty research grant) brought guest artist Muriel Miguel (Kuna/Rappahannock), the founder and director of Spiderwoman Theater Company, to campus for a series of workshops and events around the topic of Native theatre, indigenous women’s knowledge, and queer indigenous performance. Using what Spiderwoman Theatre calls “story-weaving,” a culminating workshop brought over 30 Native and non-Native students and community members together for a day-long Storyweaving Workshop on May 16. The workshop included performance processes, training, and presentations for and with the community.
The Spiderwoman Theater Company is one of the oldest and best known contemporary indigenous women’s theatre ensembles in North America. They have nurtured and inspired generations of Native women playwrights and performers. Their mission forwards the concerns of indigenous women: “to present exceptional theatre performance and to offer theater training and education rooted in an urban Indigenous performance practice. We entertain and challenge our audiences and create an environment where the Indigenous, women’s and arts communities can come together to examine and discuss their cultural, social and political concerns.” Muriel Miguel’s week-long visit to campus brought focus to women’s lived experience, women’s stories, and women’s knowledge through creative process, and theatrical performance. The events of the Spiderwoman Residency opened up conversations about Native theatre and dramaturgy, and queer indigenous performance. Several tribal members who participated in the Storyweaving Workshop expressed interest in future creative and theatrical collaborations with UO.
Funds from the CSWS research interest group “Indigenous Women of the Northwest: Culture, Community, and Concerns” were used to cosponsor many of the events and activities related to this week-long residency.