LINO LAKES — Over 100 attendees gathered for the performance of a Native American culture-oriented play at Centennial Middle School on Feb. 19.
The play, “Bring the Children Home,” written and directed by Minneapolis resident Marcie Rendon, includes singing and spirits, and tells the story of a child born into a violent and uncertain world. It portrays the importance of family and the guidance of elders to exhort youth to a beneficial and positive life path. The play embodies allegorical references and fully developed characters with original, fresh language.
The performance was enacted by Raving Natives Productions, a group that Rendon was able to develop by applying for and receiving grant money. The actors range in ages and Native bloodlines, from Ojibwa to Dakota and Meskwaki, from age 12 to much older. Centennial’s American Indian Education Program invited the troupe to come perform.
“It was a real treat to work with a full stage and lighting,” Rendon noted, as their troupe is used to performing in fairly informal settings.
Rendon said she was inspired to write the play when living with her family in the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis as the city was going through a gang war. Rendon was motivated by “the number of young people I saw caught up in that level of violence,” she said. She also wanted to bring Native theater performance to the Native community.
“Our people aren’t used to attending theater,” she noted. She said there is no Ojibwa word for art, even though Native people created beauty on what they wore, told stories, danced and made other beautiful crafts.
Born on the White Earth reservation, Rendon later achieved a B.A. in American Indian studies and a B.A. in criminal justice from Moorhead State University, as well as an M.A. in human development from St. Mary’s University. Though she has no formal education in writing, her resume boasts a host of writing residencies in which she published and produced plays and poetry. She completed an internship with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, has written songs and short stories, and has made educational presentations. Despite her lengthy resume, Rendon is humble when discussing her work.
“In 1991 I decided to make my living as a writer,” she said. “I just started finding writing jobs.” This involved submitting her work to multiple places and walking into newspaper offices to make offers. “I read lots of ‘how-to’ books.”
Her current projects include a short play that has been translated into Ojibwe, a murder mystery, and a piece for the St. Paul History Theater, written with one of Raving Native's performers Tom LeBlanc, an internationally acclaimed Dakota poet, playwright and songwriter. The piece requested by the theater was about “The Hanging of the 38,” the largest mass execution in United States history that took place in Mankato during the effort to eradicate the Dakota from the state. Thirty-eight Dakota people were hung by order of President Abraham Lincoln, and three or four of LeBlanc’s relatives were incarcerated at that time.
Raving Native Productions offers a “Date Night,” including a variety of performances at Las Mojarras restaurant, the third Thursday of each month at 1507 Lake Street in Minneapolis. Requested donation is $10 at the door, and seniors or those with an EBT card can attend for $5. Families are welcome.