POCAHONTAS, AND/OR AMERICA
Photo: Sue Kessler
Part historical pageant, part roadside attraction, Little Lord corrupts over 400 years of fact and fiction to grant America the founding myth we all deserve.
Little Lord’s Pocahontas and/or AMERICA was presented as a burlesque of centuries of misrepresentations of a decidedly troubled national birthing story. This piece was created as an interrogation of the practice, by generations of white artists, of the cultural appropriation of Indigenous cultures and experiences, and the whitewashing of problematic patriotism.
Pocahontas and/or AMERICA was developed in 2012/13 by an ensemble of New York-based theater artists, with support from the funders and development resources listed below.
Little Lord acknowledges that we would not make this piece with the same process, materials, images and perspectives today. The artistic leaders of this ensemble were primarily white artists interrogating our own legacy of whitewashing, appropriation, power, and colonialism. We see this piece, situated in a body of work, as integral to that effort. To that end, we have maintained in our archive with this content warning.
Certain imagery associated with this piece is harmful to Indigenous people. The archive of this work is curated accordingly. A full recording and script of the piece is available upon request.
We are indebted to the artistry, generosity, and labor - emotional and otherwise - of the contributors to this piece.
Photos: Erik Carter
Written by Michael Levinton and Laura von Holt
Directed by Michael Levinton
Performed by Kaaron Briscoe, Das Elkin, Joshua William Gelb, Polly Lee, Alan Tyson, Laura von Holt, Stephanie Weeks, and Enrico Wey
Sets and Costumes...Elizabeth Barrett Groth
Associate Costumes...Mike Floyd
Associate Lights...Serena Wong
Stage Management...Kaitlin Nemeth and Richard Drake
Associate Producer/Dramaturg...Sarah Bishop-Stone
Artistic Associate...Eileen Casterline
This production was made possible with support from the Mental Insight Foundation and the Nancy Quinn Fund, a program of the Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York), the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by the Brooklyn Arts Council, Inc. (BAC), and the generous support of over 100 individual donors. Subsidized studio space provided by the A.R.T./New York Creative Space Grant, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
World premiere presented by The Bushwick Starr (Brooklyn), March 2013.
The Bushwick Starr occupies the unceded land of the Lenape and Canarsie peoples. We acknowledge the Lenape and Canarsie communities, their elders both past and present, and future generations. Little Lord also acknowledges that this work was founded upon exclusions and erasures of many Indigenous peoples, including those on whose land this institution is located. This acknowledgement demonstrates a commitment to beginning the process of working to dismantle the ongoing legacies of settler colonialism.
Work-in-Progress showings: “Mundus Novus Spectaculus” presented by Little Theatre/Dixon Place, “Deer Salad” presented by CATCH Performance Series, and “Pocahontas-in-Progress” presented by The Bushwick Starr and Judson Memorial Church (2012).
Developed through residencies at Judson Memorial Church and The Bushwick Starr.
PRESS & AUDIENCE RESPONSE
"Spring Season at the Starr"
What is truth? What is artifact? What is common knowledge? This thought-provoking piece reminds us that “facts are the framework of history,” and urges us to find the truth lying somewhere among the ornament.
- Brooklyn Exposed
Brimming with blunt irony…a folksy pastiche of patriotism and crass cultural shenanigans.
Beneath its satire, Pocahontas slathers on some troubling truths.
– Village Voice
Pocahontas, and/or AMERICA bears the sparks of scrappy creative brilliance we've come to expect from Little Lord.
A rigorously artistic, entertaining, and challenging show.
I found this show to be inspiring: creating a collage about what it means to be American. This show then tries to come to grips with the fact that being an American often means being brutal and monstrous, and not only that, but also that America gets to write the narrative about those monstrosities. The puritanical and tidy history that we tell ourselves can never be commented on/mocked enough, and Little Lord asserts that to its most comical, heartbreaking, and embarrassing extremes.
- NYTimes Reader Response
THE POCAHONTAS, AND/OR AMERICAN ROADSIDE MUSEUM
Little Lord is known for building interactive, irreverent, and idiosyncratic worlds to house our productions, using a signature homemade aesthetic of repurposed thrift store bargains and pop culture detritus.
For Pocahontas, and/or AMERICA, Little Lord transformed the Bushwick Starr into an unapologetically garish roadside attraction-cum-museum filled with over 150 “artifacts” of problematic patriotism. In developing the work, we became very interested in America’s obsession with museums, and explored the way Americans use museums to display and personally connect to history. Asking the questions: what do you curate? What do you highlight? What do you leave out? Whose story are you telling?
Set design by Elizabeth Barrett Groth (Henry Hewes Design Award nomination)
Museum Curation by Michael Levinton, Elizabeth Barrett Groth, and Jane Jung
BUILDING POCAHONTAS BLOG
Laura von Holt chronicled Little Lord's development of Pocahontas, and/or AMERICA, including a trip to Jamestown in 2011 and workshops and showings at The Bushwick Starr in 2013. Read up on our adventures here.
The Generall Historie of Virginia, by John Smith (1624) ~ John Smith's letter to Queen Anne (1617) ~ John Rolfe's letter to Sir Thomas Dale (1614) ~ First Charter of Virginia (1606) ~ Ben Jonson's The Vision of Delight (1617) ~ Travels of Four Years and a Half in The United States of America by John Davis (1803) ~ The Indian Princess, or La Belle Sauvage by James Nelson Barker (1808) ~ Pocahontas, or The Settlers of Virginia by George Washington Parke Custis (1830) ~ Pocahontas by Robert Dale Owen (1838) ~ Forest Princess, or Two Countries Ago by Charlotte Barnes Conner (1848) ~ Pocahontas, or The Gentle Savage (a burlesque) by John Brougham (1855) ~ “Prologue” and “Princess Pocahontas” from Patriotic Plays and Pageants for Young People (1912) ~ “Pocahontas in London” from Historical Plays of Colonial Days for Fifth Year Pupils (1913) ~ “John Smith” from Historical Plays for Children (1916) ~ Pocahontas by Susan Donnell (romance) (1991) ~ The Double Life of Pocahontas, by Jean Fritz (1983) ~ In Their Own Words (Scholastic series): Pocahontas, by George Sullivan (2001) ~ Childhood of Famous Americans (Simon & Schuster series): Pocahontas, Young Peacemaker, by Leslie Gourse (1996) ~ Pocahontas, by Ingrid and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire (1946) ~ Jamestown, The Perilous Adventure, by Olga Hall-Quest (1950) ~ My America (Scholastic series): Elizabeth's Jamestown Colony Diary (2001) ~ Fearless Captain: The Adventures of John Smith, by Aleck Loker (2006) ~ John Smith Escapes Again! by Rosalyn Schanzer (2006) ~ NOVA | Pocahontas Revealed (PBS, 2007) ~ The Pocahontas Archive (Edward J. Gallagher, Lehigh University Digital Library) ~ Jamestown Settlement: A Pictorial Guide (book) ~ “I Am America. (And So?),” by Wyatt Mason, NY Times Magazine December 7, 2007 ~ YMCA Adventure Guides: Indian Guides and Indian Princess Tribes ~ Founding Myths: Ray Raphael, Revolutionary Historian (website) ~ Disney's America (Wikipedia) ~ American Dream (Wikipedia) ~ God Bless America, First Radio performance, Armistice Day November 10, 1938, Kate Smith ~ Portrait of George Washington (1799) ~ Apotheosis of George Washington (Capitol Rotunda, 1865) ~ A History of the Life and Death, Virtues and Exploits of General George Washington: With Curious Anecdotes, Equally Honourable to Himself and Exemplary to His Young Countrymen, by Mason Locke Weems (1918)