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Native Americans find their Voice

January 11, 2003

Laura Sturza

Native Americans are among the playwrights and performers having

their say in a program created by Burbank residents Jean Bruce Scott

and Randy Reinholz.

Started in 1993 in Illinois, Native Voices at the Autry moved to

its Griffith Park home in 2000, presenting free readings of new plays

by Native Americans and other indigenous people. Shirley Cheechoo's

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"Moose River Crossing" is being read today.

Scott and Reinholz entice actors to participate in the readings --

since film work is more lucrative -- by inviting casting directors to

events.

"We have had many of our actors contacted because somebody saw

them in a reading," Scott said.

The company has worked with ABC and is working with NBC on

showcases that let actors perform for network producers. Actor

Michael Wise, who is reading in to- day's show, was cast as a day

player on "General Hospital" after the ABC showcase.

Wise is also the founder of the Native American Film and

Television Alliance, based at the Autry. The alliance presented its

second film festival at the museum in December, and offers workshops

in acting, filmmaking and writing.

Along with educating artists, the alliance also works to change

stereotypical perceptions often held by writers and producers.

"[Scripts don't] have to be something spiritual or something

traditional or something on the reservation ... you don't have to

have an Indian theme to hire Indians in a project," Wise said.

Cheechoo proves that point by writing about universal subjects "so

that everyone can relate," she said.

"Moose River Crossing" is based on her experience of growing up on

a reservation and being sent to a boarding school set up by a church

and Canada's Dept. of Indian Affairs.

"They were trying to make white people out of us," she said.

A reading of "Moose River Crossing" is at 2 p.m. today at the

Wells Fargo Theatre at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in

Griffith Park. Admission is free, although reservations are

suggested. Reservations can be made at (323) 667-2000, ext. 354.

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