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Press Release

Release Date: September 02, 2009
by Tony Choate

Three renowned Chickasaw artists, Jerod Tate, Linda Hogan and Margaret Roach Wheeler, will help bring Chickasaw culture to life at the November 21 premiere of "Lowak Shoppala' (Fire and Light).

"These are three exceptionally talented individuals who have accomplished great things in the fields of music, literature and visual arts," said Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anaotubby. "There is no doubt that they will create an incredibly moving production as they combine their talents with all the other talented individuals and groups involved in this project."

The production is presented by the Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts and Humanities and East Central University at the Ataloa Theater in the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center on the university campus.

Chickasaw classical composer Jerod Tate was commissioned by the American Composers Forum Continental Harmony Project to create the music for the production.

"The title of the work comes directly out of the poetry of Linda Hogan," said Mr. Tate. "She composed a poem called fire and light for the tribe back in 2004. I was so moved by the poetry and the idea that I realized I wanted to use her poetry in the work as well."

While many Continental Harmony projects involve a musical performance, "Lowak Shoppala' is much more.

"It's a multimedia work in that it's for theater, so it involves acting and staging and costumes and there's dance and soloists, singers, and the children's chorus and traditional dancers from the tribe as well," said Mr. Tate. "So there's a very large mix of talent. So, basically, it's a theater piece, but I do feel comfortable with theater, because I grew up with theater. So it's something that for me feels very natural.

"But there are a lot of different components that go into that than when you write for a string symphony or an orchestra, it's just an orchestra. With this, we have several artistic organizations and artistic talent that is involved in the project."

Organizations involved in the production include the Chickasaw Dance Troupe, Chickasaw Children's Chorus, Oklahoma Youth Orchestra and dancers from Cara Crawford's Central OK Dance studio. The division of Arts and Humanities is coordinating the production.

Textile artist Margaret Roach Wheeler created the costumes and set designs for the production. Ms. Wheeler first learned of the project more than two years ago, when she met with Mr. Tate in Ada.

"That is the first time I'd heard of this project," said Ms. Wheeler, with obvious excitement. "I couldn't sleep that night and I knew exactly what I was going to do. It all came to me because Jerod told us the scenes he was going to be writing music for and I could just visualize it. I could visualize almost everything."

Ms. Wheeler incorporated almost a decade of research she has conducted under a National Museum of the American Indian research fellowship she began in 2000. She recently fitted several costumes on models.

"It's really easy to draw these things up and visualize it, but to turn them into actual creations - that's the most exciting part. "The costumes just fell into place from things I've been thinking about for 10 years."

"To actually see them on the models we selected, it just brings it all to life. I think the models even felt it. They seemed to really get into the character of the costume."

Each of the artists involved have spoken very highly about the spirit of collaboration among the three.

Ms. Hogan said that both Mr. Tate and Ms. Wheeler are doing "incredible work."

"We all three are very much on the same page as far as how we were visualizing this taking place, and what would be in it and what would develop, said Ms. Hogan. "So, for me to work up the language and the music was really kind of a gift."

Mr. Tate said he hopes the production will help inspire "artistic pride" among Chickasaws.

"When (art is) done really well, it makes people feel good about who they are. Regardless of what you're listening to – a Russian composer can make an American walk out of the auditorium feeling good about who they are. In particular, I want Chickasaw people to feel that way – and feel that who they are has been represented well."

He also hopes it will inspire interest in Chickasaw culture.

"So, here you have a very dramatic artistic representation of different aspects of our culture – so, I'm hoping that people that are non-Indian will walk away and go ‘Wow! I'd like to know more about that tribe, or I'd like to know more about Indian people because I think that was cool.'"

Tickets are free but seating is limited. For more information or to reserve tickets, contact the Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts and Humanities at 580-272-5520 or email performance@chickasaw.net. Please specify which performance and the number of seats preferred.