About 6.5 years ago Artistic Director (at the time) Art Rotch asked me to apply to be the resident playwright at Perseverance Theatre through the Mellon Foundation National Playwright Residency Program. At the time we were still in the middle of producing my first play, Our Voices Will Be Heard, and we didn’t think I’d actually get in (although he was a bigger believer in my than I was at the time.) But we thought it might be a good practice round to apply again in three years. To our surprise, I earned a spot in the 2016 cohort of the program. It fast-tracked a career I didn’t even know I wanted.

Today marks the end of a pretty incredible era in my career as I say farewell to my role as playwright in residence. After six years of being a salaried playwright (!) my residency is up.

Erin Tripp (Tlingit), Vera Starbard (Tlingit/Dena’ina) and Kenny Ramos (Barona Band of Mission Indians / Kumeyaay Nation) in Ketchikan in front of the Fog Woman totem by Nathan Jackson.

Here’s a snapshot of what the last six years have brought to the world via this residency:

  • Six new full-length Alaska Native plays
  • Nine new short Alaska Native plays or one-acts
  • A dozen feature-length articles and essays on Indigenizing theatre, including two published in theatre textbooks
  • Hundreds of roles (jobs!) created for Indigenous actors, traditional artists, directors, stage managers, costume designers, musicians, etc.
  • A zillion (approximately) workshops, classes and presentations on Indigenizing theatre and racial equity in theatre shared at universities, theatre groups and the public

Along the way I’ve developed some of the best friendships of my life, professional relationships I didn’t know were possible, and – wouldn’t you know it – discovered the most fulfilling and challenging career in the world as a playwright and scriptwriter.

I will not actually be saying farewell to Perseverance anyways as we plan a bunch of workshops and readings this year, and productions to come – I just won’t be an employee anymore.

I have to add that I CAN’T BELIEVE my mentor through all these years, Larissa FastHorse, is IN THE SAME CITY AS ME right now, and Covid is keeping me from at least toasting the end with her! 😭😭 (But it would also be kinda an anti-climactic “end” as we are already trying to schedule workshops for the year.) Larissa has walked my entire playwright walk with me, literally from my first ten pages of script ever. It feels like a moment ago.

My larger “list” of gratitude is long and not something I can remotely quantify. How do you begin to credit everyone that helped create and feed this wonderful vocation and responsibility of a storyteller?

But wow do I feel grateful to be doing what I do.

Gunalchéesh hó hó.

Devilfish production.
A Tlingit Christmas Carol online production.