USAO News Bureau

TICKETS NOW ON SALE FOR ‘TE ATA’ WORLD PREMIERE

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

CHICKASHA – One of America’s most beloved Native storytellers comes to life Aug. 5-13 in a unique theatrical production designed to challenge and inspire through the life story of an amazing Oklahoman. Tickets are on sale now for this joint production featuring nationally known actors.

Chickasaw storyteller Te Ata Fisher (1895-1995) is one of Oklahoma’s most recognized historic figures. Her story is one of perseverance, deliverance and poetic resolve, says playwright JudyLee Oliva of Albuquerque.

The world premiere of Te Ata, a an off-Broadway play with live music, is scheduled in Chickasha at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma – on the very stage where Te Ata performed nearly a century ago.

The production is sponsored jointly by the USAO Foundation and the Chickasaw Nation. Additional support came from East Central University, the Inasmuch Foundation, the Kirkpatrick Foundation, the Kerr Foundation, the Harris Foundation and the Davis-Waldorf Performing Arts Series.

A cast featuring two of America’s top Native actresses tells the story of her conflicting and dynamic worlds – the Indian and non-Indian cultures that both clashed and worked together to shape her life and world view.

From humble beginnings in Oklahoma to her triumphant career on the New York stage and back home again on the red soil of her homeland, the woman whose storytelling captured the fascination of presidents and kings takes the audience on a journey that transcends time and culture.

On a stage designed by internationally known set designer Robert Cothran, the audience is transported from reality and between the native, urban and spiritual worlds.

Throughout the production, Te Ata introduces the characters who most influenced her life. She remembers early fears of white culture and her ultimate fulfillment as a performer. She falls in love with Dr. Clyde Fisher, a white man who was a museum curator from New York, whose devotion transforms her. Young and Elder Te Ata are portrayed by separate actresses, and in a few instances, the two perform together – one in real time, one in memory.

“The story of the storyteller is beautiful, intense, surreal, musical and worthy of retelling,” says Lona Barrick, who heads the Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts and Humanities. “While books and documentaries have told about Te Ata’s life for years, the storyteller lives again through the medium she loved most, thanks to Chickasaw playwright JudyLee Oliva.”

Tickets are available by phone from the USAO Box Office at (405) 574-1213 or on the website, www.TeAtaWorldPremiere.com.

Seating is divided into two sections. Gold Section seating can be purchased for $25 each or for $20 each when purchased as a group of 20 or more. Silver Section seating can be purchased for $15 each or for $10 each when purchased as a group of 20 or more.

The part of Elder Te Ata is played by actress Donna Brooks of New York, who has spent her entire adult life as a native storyteller – just as Te Ata did. A nationally-recognized Sac & Fox storyteller, she and her husband have spent decades using story, song and dance to celebrate the special relationship the Native American people have with the earth and their respect for the natural environment. She has performed in off-Broadway productions, several films, television shows and commercials.

Los Angeles-based actress DeLanna Studi plays young Te Ata. In the past three years, the Cherokee performer has won several American Indian acting awards for her lead roles in Hallmark’s Dreamkeeper and Showtime’s Edge of America. She lent her narrative voice to the TNT/Dreamworks cable TV collaboration Into the West. With two dozen film and theatre credits under her belt, she chose to audition for Te Ata because of her native roots. “I love the story and it’s about time for this strong Native woman to have her story told,” she said.

In coordination with the August world premiere release, USAO is renovating its main auditorium, thanks to grants from the Craig Foundation and the Kirkpatrick Foundation. On opening night, Aug. 5, USAO will kick off the large-scale, eight-performance production with a special ceremony during which Troutt Hall Auditorium will be renamed Te Ata Memorial Auditorium in honor of this favorite daughter, a 1919 graduate who was named the First Oklahoma Treasure in 1972 and the first inductee to the USAO Alumni Hall of Fame.