An appreciation of Spiderwoman Theater

An appreciation of Spiderwoman Theater

Elders of the New York American Indian community, the three sisters that
make up the Spiderwoman Theater – Gloria Miguel, Muriel Miguel and Lisa
Mayo – are beloved icons and vibrant players who sustain the
longest-running women’s play-acting company in North America. The Miguel
sisters are three beautiful women, as capable as they are generous, who
comprise a legendary fountain of talent.

The sisters emerge in Brooklyn, daughters of a Kuna father and a
Rappahannock mother. Intelligent, well informed and well read, the three
culture-bearing women have produced and starred in a string of rich and
compelling theater pieces. They have toured extensively in North America
and Europe and have made it a point to put on plays on or near Indian
communities whenever possible.

The three sisters of Spiderwoman largely write and perform their own
scripts, laced with satire and social commentary of the highest order.
Traditions and modern problems are often explored and Indian polemics
around New Age plastic shamans, social aspirations of the new gaming craze,
the problems of land and identity and the universal problems of men and
women get concentrated attention.

Their play, “Winnetou’s Snake Oil Show from Wigwam City,” wrote one
reviewer, “rains irreverent spit-balls on American stereotypes of ‘Indians’
and is based loosely on a German turn-of-the-century book by Carl May
entitled ‘The Legend of Winnetou.’ This piece deals with mysticism,
healing, ecological knowledge and stereotypes.”

Here is a recently published bio of Muriel Miguel: “Miguel was born and
raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. She, along with her sisters Gloria Miguel and Lisa
Mayo, helped found the Spiderwoman Theater group in 1975. Her activities
have also included being a founding member of Joseph Chaikin’s Open Theater
and teaching theater at Bard College. The Spiderwoman Theater group has had
their plays ‘Power Pipes’ published in ‘Seventh Generation: An Anthology of
Native American Plays’ (New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1999), and
‘Sun, Moon, and Feather’ published in Contemporary Plays by Women of Color:
An Anthology (London: Routledge, 1996).”

Here’s a short list of published plays by the prolific sisters:

“Winnetous’s Snake-Oil Show from Wigwam City.” Playwrights of Color Ed. Meg
Swanson with Robin Murray. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, 1999.

“Power Pipes.” Seventh Generation: An Anthology of Native American Plays.
Ed. Mimi Gisolfi D’Aponte. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1999.

“Sun, Moon, and Feather.” Contemporary Plays by Women of Color: An
Anthology. Ed. Kathy A. Perkins and Roberto Uno. London: Routledge, 1996.

“Winnetou’s Snake-Oil Show from Wigwam City.” Canadian Theatre Review 68,
1991.

“Reverb-ber-ber-ations.” Women and Performance 5.2, 1992.

Spiderwoman Theater takes its name from the Hopi’s Spider Woman, who
created people and taught them to weave. The trio call their work “story
weaving,” the meshing of stories with words and movement to create an
overlay of interlocking stories in motion.

We encourage any and all producers to contemplate the experience and sheer
stage presence of these remarkable sisters and their refined acting and
entertainment skills. A humanity emerges from Spiderwoman’s work that is as
genuine as it is attractive and rewarding. Injustice and oppression, of
Native people, of women, of the Earth, get their share of poking, analysis
and ridicule, but through it all the three talented sisters make it come
alive. Spiderwoman’s is the craft of commitment to truth and the hard and
humorous realities of engaging a life of meaningful response.

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