Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
February 26, 2000 - Issue 04

University Troupe Passes on Traditions
By Warisha Chulindra The Capital-Journal

A dancing coyote and other animals taught children life lessons such as the importance of patience Saturday.

Thunderbird Theatre -- from Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence -- presented "Songs of Life" at the Andrew J. and Georgia Neese Gray Theatre at Washburn University. The three performances drew about 600 people.

"Songs of Life" is a collection of traditional American Indian stories presented through storytelling, dancing and inter-tribal music. The stories focused on the Coyote.

"The Coyote is revered because he's a great comic teacher," said Pat Melody, director of the Thunderbird Theatre. "We've learned best through laughter. He teaches what should be done by doing the wrong things."

The show was sponsored by Performing Arts for Children, a not-for-profit organization in its 30th season that gives children ages 3 to 11 the opportunity to see professional theater for an affordable price.

"The goal is to give the children a positive, creative outlet," said Angela Carter, president of Performing Arts for Children. "We hope to get them into the arts before they get into things that aren't as rewarding."

Tina Holz has been taking her 9-year-old twin daughters, Elizabeth and Ashley, to Performing Arts for Children for two years.

"I think it's really nice entertainment for the children," she said. "There's some education, some entertainment and a lot of different cultures."

For the members of the Thunderbird Theatre, acting allows them to share their culture.

"I enjoy working with the children," said sophomore Dustina Abrahamson. "It opens their eyes to a different world, a different culture."

Since its formation in 1974, Thunderbird Theatre has been telling and acting out stories that have been passed down for generations. Group members don't memorize the stories from a script -- tribes have kept the stories alive through oral tradition. While the point of the stories stay the same, they are tailored to the age of the audience and the time allotted for the performance.

Many children said they enjoyed the presentation.

Stacey Lawton, 10, said she liked the inter-tribal music.

"It's different from other music," she said.

Payless ShoeSource and Commerce Bank & Trust sponsored "Songs of Life." Funding for Performing Arts for Children is from the Kansas Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts and sponsored in part by Washburn University.

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