GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)
Shape changing, a lover, dreams with images and voices of grandmothers, a mysterious highway mishap, tribal politics and an actor’s veering life. Those are just a few elements in a play in a league of its own.
Part of the subtitle refers to the Trail of Tears from some of the cheerless pages of American history books.
Instead of being a preachy treatise, the play takes a personal approach.
DeLanna Studi tells her story – her background as an actress, as a woman with a white mother and a Cherokee father, as a person visited by dreams and otherworldly personas – as she and her father travel the 900 miles their ancestors were forced to walk.
“And So We Walked: An Artist’s Journey Along the Trail of Tears” is a phenomenal play that for four performances visited Fort Howard Hall of the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
DeLanna Studi is the sole performer. The play is two hours and 20 minutes of her telling family tales, recounting her childhood, unleashing personal and Cherokee history and changing characters and voices across sexes and ages and worlds, real or other.
Woven through are projections of places from history or today, of nature, of maps.
Sounds include those of nature, of Native American origin, of voices both imaginary and real.
The play is super-complex all over the place.
DeLanna Studi can speak in the cutesy voice of a little girl (her), the guy-guy voice of a male (her father, boyfriend, etc.), the crackling voice of elderly women (the grandmothers, etc.). She plays 20-plus roles.
DeLanna Studi’s family history includes a Cherokee branch who owned slaves.
The larger history includes deceit by a president (ignoring a Supreme Court decision) and by Cherokee against Cherokee.
DeLanna Studi is a committed walking conscience about the Trail of Tears, a reminder. She also is loaded with conflicts, which she reveals, including the professional actor’s life versus family wishes.
The play offers her perspectives along with those of her father, notably as they visit sites along the Trail of Tears and hear explanations of them from docents/guides/officials – all portrayed by DeLanna Studi in different voices, dialects and mannerisms.
From its origins to its execution, this is a remarkable play.
Creative: Playwright – DeLanna Studi; director – Corey Madden; executive/creative producer – Mara Isaacs; scenic designer – John Coyne; costume designer – Andja Budinich; projections and lighting designer – Norman Coates; sound designer and original music – Bruno Louchouarn with John-John Grant and Sarah Elizabeth Burkey; stage manager, video and audio supervisor – Aaron Gonzalez
Performer in multiple voices/characters: DeLanna Studi
Running time: Two hours, 20 minutes
Remaining performance: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16
THE VENUE: The sound-friendly Fort Howard Hall is one of three performance spaces within the Edward W. Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. With seating for 275 when a bank of risers is deployed, the space is used for recitals and small-group performances. Built with acoustical properties of high concern, the room includes five banks of angled wood in the ceiling and seven beveled wood panels each side, with curtains between and flat surfaces dark blue-gray. The hall’s name relates to Fort Howard Paper Co., a historic firm in Green Bay that was founded by A.E. Cofrin, whose son Dr. David A. Cofrin, and other family members were instrumental in building the Weidner Center through multi-million-dollar donations.