Twin Theater Production

A Theater Review By Larry P. Madden

As the expected crisp December weather arrived in northeastern Wisconsin, the Norbert Hill Center in Oneida was the scene of a hot ole’ time at the theater. Those of us in attendance were treated to another ambitious theatrical undertaking by the cast and crew from College of Menominee Nation (CMN). This show was a twin bill show casing two shows and it held performances in both Keshena and Oneida communities.

Upon arrival, friendly faces greeted my every turn, which is also what I’ve come to appreciate about CMN’s shows. They always produce a community-friendly program that allows one’s entire family to tune in. These shows were no different, as there was laughter from the elders to youngsters and everyone in between. I can’t help but note that this is how familial memories are created and dreams for future aspirations are able to flourish.

cmn stage 2017The first show was Assiniboine playwright William S. Yellowrobe Jr.’s, “N.A.P.S.: The Native American Paranormal Society.” The spoof features a lowbrow company more interested in hours billed than documenting any paranormal activity. Yet working a desolate and deserted casino, the team goes through the motions of searching for an otherworldly encounter. This team of doubters was spurred on by character Reg Hall—a money-grubbing team leader looking for glory. Playing the part of Hall was Ms. Annmarie Spice, no stranger to the spotlight, as she has served as Mohican Nation Veterans’ Princess.

Reg pushes for results, even if they can’t be verified, and Eldon, portrayed by veteran CMN actor Lloyd Friesen, eventually provides the inside story concerning tragedies at the former casino. The Yellowrobe story twists and turns with spiritual undertones, interrupted by comedic overlays, but the abrupt conclusion of the play left one wondering where the story would go next.

The second production of the evening came from the prolific mind of the late Jim Northrup, famous in Indian Country for his columns called, “Fond du Lac Follies.” His play, “ Shinnob Jep,” is based quite loosely on the time-honored game show, “Jeopardy,” hosted by Alex Trebeck. This play is a spoof, as “Shinnob Jep,” is hosted by Al Treebark and supported by low-grade “commercials” often read by the host. The show’s competitors ranged from a damaged Veteran to a Powwow Princess and a recent returnee who’d been adopted by non-Natives in the days before The Indian Child Welfare Act limited such common practices. Nothing is sacred as the late Mr. Northrup lets his humor loose in this piece of work. Many of the laugh lines are aimed at an Indian audience, but relatable enough for anyone to get a laugh. The cast did a great job keeping the one-liners and retorts flying. Comedic theater is always a tough game, but the CMN crew handled the Northrup wit with ease.

This twin bill stage event was produced by CMN and the prestigious Oneida Nation Arts Program under the direction of the talented Ryan Winn. Together they endeavor to bring theater to our multiple Indian communities of northeastern Wisconsin. In this reviewer’s opinion, it was another job well done.

Larry P. Madden (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Wisconsin) was born and raised in the Sturgeon Bay area. A recent graduate of CMN, he enjoys the Powwow trail and strives to maintain balance on the red road.