Walking on Turtle Island
From the ‘res’ to the land of lakes to the great north west to a prison cell, actor/ playwright Robert Owens-Greygrass tells his stories of Native Americans, shape shifting through many ‘skins’ with poise and purpose.
Photo Credit: Craig Schwartz
His mild polemic discourses the peaceful lives of the red man in the Old Days living with the Old Ways in harmony with Mother Earth in peace and happiness. Then, the coming of the white man and the white man’s edicts pushing and shoving onto the North American Continent: Turtle Island. More money has been spent on Susan Sharpf’s well constructed set than necessary. An empty space, a simple bench, a table and a rocking chair would have easily been brought to life with the actor’s expertise. Owens-Greygrass takes stage with simple rituals and honed acting skills guided subtly by director Kevin Sifuentes. The audience is welcomed into the circle, into the ceremony of respect for each other and Mother Earth.
With simple and subtle changes of attitude, Owens-Greygrass brings us to know a young Rosebud boy, a dreamer who is taught the Old Ways by his grandfather, as they stand one foot in modern times and the other in ancient lands.
In Minnesota, we hear the story of Night Flying Woman, Ojibwe, beginning with her in her eightieth year and then easily swung back into her childhood where overwhelming conquerors seek to tear her from her roots.
In Oregon, The Warrior, Tyee John decries being displaced from pillar to post and back again, angry and confused at the so called laws that now govern Turtle Island, where before the western expansion and the yellow metal fever, there were no cages, no prisons.
In a no-name jailhouse, perhaps in Gallup or points south, Jesse White Toes, a drunken ‘breed, rambles unhappily until Spirit Grandfather appears to guide him through his sad state of affairs.
Finally, Res Boy returns, now a man, a discharged medic home from Iraq to honor his grandfather’s grave with his story of becoming a western medicine man at Stanford: a doctor.
Without a doubt, the inevitable invasion of Europeans across the North American continent has wreaked havoc among the First Americans. To see Owens-Greygrass’s portrayal of each of these characters, sculpted, fine tuned with sincerity and passion is a moving experience. The playwright / actor brings his stories to life with precision, good humor and deep pathos. What a pleasant surprise to experience one person owning the stage for just the right length of time to charm his audience and share his tales. Walking on Turtle Island is a must see.
Walking on Turtle Island
With Ghostlands of an Urban NDN
Written and performed by Robert Owens-Greygrass
Wells Fargo Theater at The Autry National Center
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Tickets and Information
323 667 2000 ext. 299
$20 Top ($10 students/military/seniors)