Please Do Not Touch the Indians

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In this play, Joseph Dandurand infuses traditional storytelling into nonlinear theater.



In the play Please Do Not Touch the Indians, Joseph Dandurand infuses traditional storytelling into nonlinear theater:  characters move freely between past and present, offering perspectives of the same reality from different vantage points. It is a difficult journey, but also the charming love story between an American Indian man and woman and their children. The tale leaps and soars rapidly with the casual conversation of its characters:  Wooden Man, Wooden Woman, Brother Raven, Sister Coyote, Mister Wolf and with visits from a singing fish, two-headed baby, and seductive salmon.

The play revolves around these two Wooden Indians who are perched on a bench in front of Hank William Sr’s Bait and Gift Shop. Dressed in a Hollywood version of traditional Native wear, the two Indians are badgered by camera toting, time traveling tourists. All of these unwelcome visitors set up their cameras on tripods and take timed photos of themselves with the wooden Indians. One is a snotty kid who tells Mister Wolf that “Wolves don’t wear suits… Wolves have big teeth and walk on all fours.” To this, Mister Wolf replies, “Well, I don’t.” More than entertaining folklore, Please Do Not Touch the Indians has a significant lesson. We realize early in its pages that these are not just obnoxious tourists; they call into question the identity of the folks and critters sitting on the bench.

Even when Wooden Man must fight in a war against the “Blue Coats,” the tourist, a movie director, controls the scene—Wooden Man’s narrative and memory. The movie director orders Wooden Man: “Could you talk slower? More poetically. Slowly and clearly. These words were written for a reason. Let’s hear them, ok? More cannon fire! More cannon fire!” It is clear that the very real struggle of Wooden Man and Wooden Woman and their people is at the movie director’s disposal to be exploited. The director says: “Let’s get some close-ups of those bleeding scalps. I want them to drip and drip. And get the women and children ready, I want to see the children and the women screaming and crying. Can they do that? Tell them we’ll pay more if there’s real tears.”

Dandurand’s exploration into race, history, loss and cultural appropriation is cleverly told in the conversations of his loveable characters. His descriptions are so vivid, this play will leave you wanting to see the characters take to the stage.

Joseph A. Dandurand is Kwantlen First Nation from British Columbia. He is a poet, playwright, fisherman, researcher, archaeologist, and proud father. He produced several plays as the playwright-in-residence for the Museum of Civilization in Hull and for Native Earth in Toronto. He also authored a radio script, St. Mary’s, produced by CBC Radio in 1999. His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies and his most recent book is Shake.

 

 

Author: Joseph A. Dandurand

Binding Availability: Paperback or Hardcover

Published: 2004

Tribes/Ethnic Groups: Coast Salish (Kwantlen)