Native American Women Playwrights Archive: Spiderwoman Theater

promoThe Native American Women Playwrights Archive (NAWPA) is a collection of original materials by Native women playwrights of the Americas. NAWPA hopes to identify playwrights, collect and preserve their work, try to make it widely known, and encourage performances and continued creativity.  This collection includes manuscripts and plays as well as production materials such as programs, posters, flyers, photographs, correspondence, articles, and audio visual materials.  The collection also includes materials relating to the archives such as correspondence and administrative documents, as well as materials relating to conferences and events sponsored by the archive.

promo 3NAWPA also serves as a repository for Spiderwoman Theater. Spiderwoman Theater is the country’s longest running women’s performance group, founded in 1976 by Lisa Mayo, Gloria Miguel, and Muriel Miguel, three Native American sisters of Rappahannock and Kuna heritage.  The group has included various other performers throughout its history, most notably the Colorado sisters.  Spiderwoman Theater has held workshops and residencies as well as performances in venues and festivals all over the world.  The group uses a specific working technique they call storyweaving, which is “creating designs and weaving stories with words and movement.”

Three different promotional flyers for "Lysistrata Numbah!"

Three different promotional flyers for “Lysistrata Numbah!”

The archive houses many original Spiderwoman Theater materials including histories and biographies of the group and its members, articles and interviews. The archive is also home to a large collection of photographs, including photographs of performances and appearances, as well as childhood and family photographs.

yellowIn addition, the archive houses various plays written and performed by Spiderwoman Theater including Women in Violence; The Lysistrata Numbah; Winnetou’s Snake Oil Show From Wigwam City; Cabaret:  An Evening of Disgusting Songs and Pukey Images; and Sun, Moon, and Feathers, as well as many others.

cabaretMost of the Spiderwoman Theater manuscripts found in the archive do not contain the plays in their entirety, but are rather a collection of bits and pieces scattered throughout the hand written partial scripts and working personal notebooks of the group.  The collection also contains materials relating to the various plays, including promotional materials and posters, programs from different performances, production photographs, articles/reviews, and several taped performances.

women and violenceIncluded in the archive are materials relating to festivals and events in which Spiderwoman Theater participated, such as Festival of Fools, Festival Mondial du Theatre, and Humora.  These materials include programs, posters, and articles/reviews.

women and violence 2The collection also houses a few materials relating to individual works and performances by members of Spiderwoman Theater, including items such as a program from a performance of Grandma and Grandpa directed by Muriel Miguel, and a flyer for a performance of Lizzie & Lisa, a one woman show by Lisa Mayo.

cabaret twoSome of my favorite pieces from the collection are the various posters and flyers used to promote Spiderwoman Theater performances, many of which are shown throughout this blog post. For more information on Spiderwoman Theater visit the Native American Women Playwrights Archive, located in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections, or visit the Spiderwoman Theater website!

Ashley Jones
Preservation Librarian