Gilbert Researches Story of Crazy Horse Monument
Joanne Gilbert is preparing a theatrical performance to tell the
story of the Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
“I seek to advocate for marginalized people through performance,” says Gilbert, communications professor at Alma College. “This is an ambitious project and one I feel very passionate about.”
Gilbert traveled to South Dakota to conduct interviews with family members of Korczak Ziolkowski, who spent a large portion of his life prior to his death in 1982 sculpting the memorial, a 641-foot-wide by 563-foot high mountain monument in the form of Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance.
Joanne Gilbert, far right, with the student cast and Holocaust survivors from her 2006 production, "Up From the Ashes: Michigan Holocaust Survivors Share Their Stories."
The memorial’s mission is to honor the culture, tradition and living heritage of North American Indians.
“The stories are fascinating,” says Gilbert. "Once I visited, I became
incredibly moved and inspired by the dream of Korczak Ziolkowski.
What's amazing is that here is someone who knew his vision would never
be complete in his lifetime, yet he did it anyway."
Gilbert also interviewed the grandson of Lakota Chief Henry Standing Bear and four Lakota — two who work on the mountain and two who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
She has transcribed those interviews, which will become a 45-minute script for her 2009 Spring Term “Performing Advocacy” class.
“One of the challenges about creating the script is making decisions about whether to use material that can be highly dramatic, but may not show the interview subjects in the best light,” she says. “My goal is to tell the story without disparaging anyone.”
Students in the class will spend the first 12 days rehearsing the production, using a technique called “Everyday Life Performance,” which utilizes transcripts and audio files to help performers replicate speakers’ mannerisms.
After a performance in Alma on May 12, 2009, the students will travel to South Dakota to perform the production several times at Crazy Horse as well as at the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Additionally, they will help fund-raise for the memorial.
Gilbert notes that the Pine Ridge reservation will provide a different environment for the students than their usual context of life at Alma College.
“The disjuncture of the breathtakingly beautiful landscape and the abject poverty will be powerful for them,” she says.
“I hope the students will have an eye-opening experience that introduces them both to the nature of advocacy and to performance as a communicative tool,” Gilbert says. “This type of introduction to Native American culture and history truly has transformative potential.”
Posted: Mon, November 3rd, 2008 at 8:39AM