Tori and Mabelle talk with Larissa FastHorse about her path from ballet to the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis to “The Thanksgiving Play” on Broadway. Larissa shares the details of her heart work with Indigenous communities and her radical inclusion process. Other topics include the Lakota Way, Indigenous Direction, writing for multigenerational audiences, and Larissa’s upcoming productions of “Peter Pan” and “For the People.”
Photo credit: Conor Horgan
Episode 065 – Writing prompt (courtesy of Larissa FastHorse)
Dear XXX – An Exercise for Getting Unstuck. When Larissa is stumped, this is one of her favorite exercises. She goes through all of the characters and writes letters to someone key from the character’s point of view. For example, if one character has an issue with their mother, she’ll have them write a letter to their mother. Or she’ll have the character write to their biggest conflict in the play – and vice versa. It’s an easy way to get out of the scene you are stuck in and open yourself up to what this character needs, wants, and desires. She does this as a timed writing. She’ll set a timer of three minutes and start the exercise “Dear XXX” (as the character). The rule is that you can’t stop writing, even if you are writing the same word over and over again. Keep writing until the time is up. Larissa will do this for all of her characters in a scene she’s having an issue with, and the problem usually gets resolved by the end of the timer.
Connect with Larissa:
Larissa FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota Nation) is a 2020 MacArthur Fellow, award winning writer/choreographer, and co-founder of Indigenous Direction, the nation’s leading consulting company for Indigenous arts and audiences. Her satirical comedy, The Thanksgiving Play (Playwrights Horizons/Geffen Playhouse), is one of the top ten most produced plays in America this season. She is the first Native American playwright in the history of American theater on that list. Additional produced plays include What Would Crazy Horse Do? (KCRep), Landless and Cow Pie Bingo (AlterTheater), Average Family (Children’s Theater Company of Minneapolis), Teaching Disco Squaredancing to Our Elders: a Class Presentation (Native Voices at the Autry), Vanishing Point (Eagle Project), and Cherokee Family Reunion (Mountainside Theater).
Over the past several years Larissa has created a nationally recognized trilogy of community engaged plays with Cornerstone Theater Company. The first was Urban Rez, the second project, Native Nation, was the largest Indigenous theater production in the history of American theater with over 400 Native artists involved in the productions in association with ASU Gammage. Their current project, The L/D/Nakota Project is set in Larissa’s homelands of South Dakota. Her radical inclusion process with Indigenous tribes has been honored with the most prestigious national arts funding from MacArthur, Creative Capital, MAP Fund, NEFA, First People’s Fund, the NEA Our Town Grant, Mellon Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and others.
Additional theaters that have commissioned or developed plays with Larissa include The Public, Yale Rep, Guthrie, Geffen Playhouse, History Theater, Kennedy Center TYA, Baltimore’s Center Stage, Arizona Theater Company, Mixed Blood, Perseverance Theater Company, The Lark Playwrights Week, the Center Theatre Group Writer’s Workshop and Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor.
Larissa’s company, Indigenous Direction, recently produced the first land acknowledgement on national television for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC. Along with partner Ty Defoe, their other clients include Roundabout Theater Company, American Association of Arts Presenters (APAP), Western Arts Alliance, Guthrie, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Brown University, and many more. Their groundbreaking work is redefining Indigenous art representation and education in America.
In 2019 Larissa entered film and television with a series at Freeform, a movie for Disney Channel, and a special for NBC. She is currently in development as the creator for projects with Apple TV, Taylor Made Productions, Echo Lake, and another NBC project. Larissa began her writer training as a Sundance Native Feature Fellow, Fox Diversity Fellow, ABC Native American Fellow, and an intern at Universal Pictures before theater.
Larissa’s other awards include the PEN/Laura Pels Theater Award for an American Playwright, NEA Distinguished New Play Development Grant, Joe Dowling Annamaghkerrig Fellowship, AATE Distinguished Play Award, Inge Residency, Sundance/Ford Foundation Fellowship, Aurand Harris Fellowship, and the UCLA Native American Program Woman of the Year. She was vice chair of the board of directors of Theater Communications group and represented by Jonathan Mills at Paradigm NY. She lives in Santa Monica with her husband, the sculptor Edd Hogan.
Check out “Fake It Until You Make It” at the Mark Taper Forum: https://www.centertheatregroup.org/tickets/mark-taper-forum/2021-2/fake-it-until-you-make-it/
Read about “For the People” at the Guthrie: https://www.broadwayworld.com/article/World-Premiere-of-FOR-THE-PEOPLE-More-Set-for-Guthrie-Theater-2023-2024-Season-20230308
Larissa wrote the Additional Book for the 2023 “Peter Pan” musical!: https://peterpanontour.com/
“The Democracy Project” debuts in NYC this summer: https://federalhall.org/the-democracy-project/
Read more about the Far South/Border North grant (Mabelle is a grantee!!!): https://www.sandiego.gov/far-south-border-north/grants