Theater: MJC looks at American Indian women in “Rez Sisters”

05/22/2014 8:42 AM

05/22/2014 9:01 AM

Life on the reservation is tough, so it’s good to have sisters you can count on.

Sisterhood, in all its forms, is explored in the play “The Rez Sisters,” about seven women from an American Indian reservation looking for a way out. The production from the Modesto Junior College theater department opens next week and runs through June 7 in the little theater.

The piece by award-winning Canadian Indian playwright Tomson Highway follows the women, mostly sisters and half sisters, who dream of striking it rich at “The Biggest Bingo in the World.” The MJC production, directed by Lynette Borrelli-Glidewell, chronicles the highs and lows of reservation life with humor and heart.

“It’s a lovely, thought-provoking, funny and spiritual play about seven Native American woman living on a reservation in Canada in the late 1980s,” Borrelli-Glidewell said.

The cast includes Veronica Espinosa as Pelajia Patchnose, Cecilia Rodriguez as Philomena Moosetail, Dahlia Martinez as Marie-Adele Starblanket, Rachel Pearre as Annie Cook, Hannah Hoxie as Emily Dictionary, Kendra Griffith as Veronique St. Pierre, Shelby Keathley as Zhaboonigan Peterson and Noah Thompson as Nanabush the Spirit Dancer.

The women gossip and scheme about what they would do with the tournament’s million-dollar jackpot. For each, it symbolizes salvation from life on the reservation. The New York Times said the play is “rooted in harsh realities” including “joblessness, prejudice and alcoholism.” The play also touches on other hardships, from sexual assault to poverty and illness.

The MJC production has costume design by Anne Shanto and scenic and lighting design by Ty Helton. Patrick Johnson and Ethan Katchel serve as assistant set designers for the production.

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