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The Turtle Theater Collective: Bringing Native Lives and Experiences to the Stage 

Article by Claudia Kittock

Marisa Carr is a fascinating woman. Born in Milwaukee to the Ojibwe Turtle Tribe, Marisa learned her native Ojibwe language as a young woman. She earned a major in Native American Studies at the University of Minnesota and graduated with a BA. After graduation, Marisa started her professional life as an actor, but soon discovered that Native stories were not being told, or when referenced were shown in stereotypical ways.

Marisa began her writing career with the hopes of depicting contemporary representations of Native lives and experiences, and was soon named as a fellow at the Playwright's Center. She honed her craft there and made many valuable contacts, some of whom were interested in Marisa’s goal of adding Native stories to contemporary theater.

With a group of friends which included Ernest Briggs and Sequoia Hauck, both professional theater artists, a decision was made to try something bold and new. They formed the Turtle Theater Collective in March of 2017 with the goal of telling Native stories through Native artists. While is seems to be a common belief that there are only a few professional Native artists in Minneapolis, that is just not true. The Turtle Theater Collective hopes to show the theater world that there are many talented Native artists in Minneapolis just waiting for a chance to tell Native stories.

The first production of the Collective is Almighty Voice and His Wife, and it will be performed at the Southern Theater on March 9, 10, and 11. It is based on a true story from Canada where a man was arrested for killing his own cow. He was sent to prison, and while there, staged a jail break, running 13 miles through Canadian prairie. A huge manhunt ensued, using over 100 Mounties to find and kill the farmer. The first act tells this story, and Act 2 begins with the farmer and his wife as ghosts, inhabiting an abandoned Indian Boarding School, where they retell the story through the structure of a minstrel show.

There are already plans to stage a second production this summer, which will be a retelling of Our Town, with Native actors playing the part of the Webb and Gibbs family, as well as the Stage Manager. Previews will begin in early March.

What an exciting new venture! How do you help?

• Buy tickets!  They are available online
• Donations to the Turtle Theater Collective via GiveMN 
• Tell a friend, tell a co-worker, tell a neighbor, tell everyone!

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About Claudia Kittock

Claudia is a resident of the Mill District. In addition to writing for Mill City Times, she is a founding Board Member of Friends of the Mill District. Claudia is the author of Health Through Chaos, mentors young adults at YouthLink, and has served on the Downtown Minneapolis Neighborhood Association (DMNA).


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