Muriel Miguel

Muriel Miguel, one of the grandmothers of Indigenous theatre in the United States and Canada, joined us as the Saturday Keynote and 2019 Distinguished Career Award recipient at the 70th annual SETC Convention in Knoxville, TN. You can listen to the recorded audio or read the transcript of Muriel Miguel’s keynote address.

Muriel Miguel, SETC Keynote, Saturday, March 2, 2019. Photo by Caitie McMekin.

"How do you put light under the rocks?"

Muriel Miguel

Meet Muriel Miguel

Muriel Miguel (Kuna/Rappahannock) is a founding member and Artistic Director of Spiderwoman Theater, the longest running Native American women’s theater company in North America. She has directed and co-written all of Spiderwoman’s shows since their first show Women in Violence in 1976. They have produced over 20 original works for the theatre.

Muriel is a 2018 Doris Duke artist and, in 2016, was a John S. Guggenheim Foundation Fellow. She has received an honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts from Miami University in Oxford, OH, home of the Native American Women Playwrights Archives. She was awarded a Rauschenberg Residency in 2015 and is a member of the National Theater Conference.

Muriel studied modern dance with Alwin Nickolai, Erick Hawkins and Jean Erdman. She was an original member of Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theater where she performed in the groundbreaking works: Terminal, The Serpent, Mere Ubu and Viet Rock. She is a choreographer, director and actor. She has choreographed Throw Away Kids and She Knew She Was She for the Aboriginal Dance Program at the Banff Centre. She directed Spiderwoman Theater’s Material Witness, The Scrubbing Project with Turtle Gals Performance Ensemble, and Evening in Paris with Raven Spirit Dance Company. She has been a dramaturge with Native Earth Performing Arts’ annual Weesageechak Begins to Dance Festival. As an actor, she was the Mary Deity in the off-Broadway hit, Taylor Mac’s Lily’s Revenge. She created the role of Philomena Moosetail in The Rez Sisters, by Tomson Highway, a play that is a seminal work in the development of a First Nations play repertory in Canada. She played Aunt Shadie in The Unnatural and Accidental Women by Marie Clements and Spirit Woman in BONES: An Aboriginal Dance Opera. She has created one woman shows Hot’ N’ Soft, Trail of the Otter and most recently Red Mother. Her latest project is Misdemeanor Dream, which is inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and explores the real and the fantastical existence of Native and First Nations tricksters and spirits in the stories, knowledge and lives of Indigenous people.

She was selected for the Native and Hawaiian Women of Hope poster by Bread and Roses International Union’s Bread and Roses Center and in 2003 was the recipient of the first Lipinsky Residency (feminist-in-residence) at San Diego State University Women’s Studies Department. She has received many awards as a member of Spiderwoman Theater. The Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of the American Indian presented a retrospective exhibit, New Tribe, New York honoring Spiderwoman Theater’s years of work; a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art and the Otto René Castillo Award for Political Theatre. Spiderwoman Theater received the first Honoring the Spirit Award for Arts and Entertainment from the American Indian Community House. Muriel was an Assistant Professor of Drama at Bard College. She taught and directed a yearly production at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre (CIT) was Program Director for CIT’s three week summer intensive. She is a pioneer in the development of an Indigenous performance methodology and is active in the training of Indigenous actors and dancers in this culturally based method. She was a Program Director for the Aboriginal Dance Program at The Banff Centre and an instructor there for seven years. Muriel has lectured with Muriel Miguel: A Retrospective and facilitated Storyweaving Workshops in conservatories and universities in the US, Canada and Europe.

Her work has been profiled in numerous articles and essays. The most notable of these are Women in Love: Portraits of Lesbian Mothers and their Families by Barbara Seyda and Diana Herrera and American Women Stage Directors of the 20th Century by Anne Fliotsos and Wendy Vierow. Plays Published: TRAIL OF THE OTTER in Staging Coyote’s Dream: An Anthology of First Nations Drama in English Vol. II and HOT ‘N’ SOFT in Two-Spirit Acts: Queer Indigenous Performances (Playwright’s Canada Press). There have been numerous publications of Spiderwoman Theater plays, including PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY in Performing Worlds Into Being: Native American Women’s (Miami University Press); WINNETOU’S SNAKE OIL SHOW FROM WIGWAM CITY in Keepers of the Morning Star: An Anthology of Native Women’s Theater (UCLA American Indian Studies Centre), and REVERB-BER-BER-RATIONS in Staging Coyote’s Dream: An Anthology of First Nations Drama in English (Playwright’s Canada Press).

Photo by Monica McKenna, 2011
Muriel Miguel writing her play "Fear of Oatmeal" at the Rauschenberg Residency, 2015. Photo by Mark Poucher.
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