It takes a village to raise a Super Indian 4-07

by Arigon Starr
News From Indian Country

Hello all my friends at NFIC. I'm currently up to my eyeballs in
pre-production work on Super Indian, the radio comedy series that
Native Voices at the Autry commisioned me to write for them last year.
As many of you know, Super Indian was produced as a ten minute
episode at the National Audio Theater Festival in West Plains,
Missouri. The NATF has been in operation for many years and 2006 was
the first time they had a large contingent of Native American actors,
writers, directors, producers and technicians on-board for their
week-long convention. There were folks from as far away as Alaska,
Idaho, Washington and North Carolina at the conference. The
professionals at NATF were very patient with us as we learned the
craft of writing, casting, performing and producing live radio
onstage before a live audience. The final result was broadcast live
on many National Public Radio stations.

The three Native plays produced at the workshop - Rhiana Yazzie's THE
Best Place To Grow Pumpkins, Rose-Yvonne Colletta's Melba's Medicine
and my comedy Super Indian were also edited and broadcast on Native
Voice One, the new Native satellite/online syndicated radio service
based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Super Indian has provided me with another opportunity to live my
dreams. When I was a kid moving around the country with my Navy
family, my father Ken Wahpecome brought home a reel-to-reel tape
recorder from Japan. He set up the tape recorder and had me read from
a kid's storybook about Squanto. (I had the worst time pronouncing
that name right. My family would re-run that tape over and over just
to hear my six-year-old voice botch Squanto's name!) I had never
heard my voice on tape before that and it made me want to write and
record my own stories. As a teenager, I taped comedies on my cassette
recorder that would have been at home on Saturday Night Live. I have
always been a big fan of comedy radio shows, from National Lampoon to
Phil Hendrie to Roy D. Mercer, and it's exciting to be creating a
show that's about the Native community.

In my previous column, I outlined the process of writing spec scripts
and mentioned the wild and crazy ideas that were developing to make
Super Indian a unique show. The writing process is often very
solitary work. Creating characters from whole cloth then having them
interact with each other in your mind is a strange process. I have
often read about other writers who let the characters "speak" to them
and guide where the story is going. That really does happen. Hubert
Logan and all the residents of the fictional Leaning Oak Reservation
are alive in my noggin!

Cue the scary music! AAAY!

Now that the script is in more of a final state, director William
Dufris (who's Mi'kmaq, by the way) has made suggestions. So has
Native Voices at the Autry's Executive Director Jean Bruce Scott.
This is where a writer has to turn their ego off and often lose their
favorite jokes and lines of dialogue. There were a lot of funnies
that I hated to see deleted, but hopefully they will live again in
upcoming episodes of the series.

I don't think we'll ever see an American Humane Society type
disclaimer on any project stating that "No Jokes were harmed in the
making of this project."

The new element in the production has been the addition of sound
effects designer Tony Palermo. Tony has taken the project and added
his expertise in sound effects and design and will help us make Super
Indian into a hilarious, rocket ride that will certainly make Native
and non-Native audiences roll with laughter.

The audience is a huge element in the success of Super Indian. Live
performers sense and feed off the energy of the audience. The actors
in the show will be inspired by the laughter of the crowd. The
audience always helps to spur the cast on - and I hope you'll
consider being part of our team!

The show was performed on Friday, April 13 at
8:00 pm and on Saturday, April 14, 2007

In my next column, I'll give you the full low-down on the production
of Super Indian, who was there and how much they laughed.