NAWPA: The Frybread Queen Synopsis

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The Frybread Queen
by Carolyn Dunn

Annalee Walker Hayne: age 45, Creek/Choctaw Indian attorney born and raised in Oklahoma. Former wife of Paul Burns, now back with her first husband, David Hayne, a Karuk Indian from California. Helped Paul raise Lily for five years. Has come back to help bury Paul.
Carlisle Emmanuel Burns: age 38. Urban Indian, born in Los Angeles. Cherokee/Choctaw. Mother of twin sons, John Tahlonteeskee (“Tahlon”), and Thomas Tiger, who died in infancy. Married to Stephen Burns, he is not the biological father of her 4 yr old son, but is raising him.
Lily Savannah Santiago Burns: Navajo/Laguna, 17, Jessie’s granddaughter: Paul’s daughter. Has lived off and on with Paul over the years, and most recently with Jessie.

Jessie Burns: 60, Navajo, grandmother to Lily, mother-in-law to Carlisle and Annalee. Born, raised, and has lived on Navajoland her whole life, went to Mormon boarding school, raised her kids with her parents, and worked two jobs in the tourist industry on Lake Powell to raise them; left by her Laguna husband many times and is now raising Lily.

The setting is on the northernmost border of the Navajo reservation at the Arizona/Utah border, near Lake Powell. It’s late morning. Act One takes place inside Jessie Burns’ kitchen; Acts Two and Three are outside the house; several cottonwood trees dot the landscape. The only furniture outside is old oil drums and beaten up wooden furniture: five chairs, two rugged tables, and a nearly skeletal, faded green yard umbrella. There are plastic chairs set up outside as if there is a party. Tables are covered with bright, red and white checked plastic tablecloths. Four watermelons and a punchbowl sit on the table. Act Four takes place inside of the house.

There are four songs in the play mentioned: a traditional Apache song “I’m in Love with a Navajo Boy,” recorded by Patsy and Philip Cassadore; “You Belong to Me,” recorded by Patsy Cline; “Halleluyan,” a well-known Muskogee Creek hymn, “Fox’s Round Dance” and “Grandmothers Song” recorded by the Mankillers.