Last Drive to Dodge
Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton
Lead Sponsor: Jane & Bill Bardin
Partner Sponsors: Lee Katman & David Katz and Christine Marsh Donchin
Livestream reading: Sunday, October 24, at 6 pm PT
On-Demand presentation: October 26–31
1884, Texas. Ro, a ranch worker, and Prophet, a cowboy, are in love. They dream of owning their own land, leaving the Bailey Family Ranch behind, and building a life together. But when the ranch prematurely falters, and the cowboys go on strike, Ro and Prophet are pulled in opposite directions as they fight to keep their vision of the future from crumbling to dust. Set at the tail end of the Cowboy Golden Age, Last Drive to Dodge examines race, love, and legacy in a time when everyone is scrambling for their piece of the American Dream.
I’ve always loved movies for as long as I can remember—movies of all genres…except Westerns, which I couldn’t stand the idea of watching for a long time. But objectively, I should’ve loved them. They’ve got action, daring escapes, romance, awesome dialogue, larger-than-life characters—all things I like, but for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to watch them. Reflecting back, I now realize that I didn’t like Westerns because I never felt like I was invited to like them. I rarely saw anyone in them who looked like me, and I didn’t feel seen myself. Perhaps that’s why I gravitated toward Blazing Saddles. At any rate, the Western was a genre in which I felt as though I could only watch, not participate.
Now, the writer in me goes, “Where are the Black cowboys? What were their lives like during this time? Where are their stories and why aren’t they on stage?” And the more research I did, the more fascinated I became with the time period. There was no shortage of Black people and figures in the American Frontier. But I had hardly heard of any.
The American West is an overly romanticized and whitewashed period in American history. So I wanted to write a story set in that time period with Black people as the protagonists, and in a romance all their own. But I didn’t want to write a sprawling, gunslinging, bull- or horse-riding epic. I wanted to tell a small-scale story with large-scale implications. Not overly romanticized. Not outrageous. But human, and grounded in the social and political realities of the ranching industry in the late 19th century. So while this play may not be a Western in the true sense, it is built on the genre’s bones. And in the same way I desired when I felt I couldn’t participate, I want these characters and people to be seen—with all their love, their challenges, their joy, their faults, and their vulnerabilities.
And now I speak more personally to you, Audience Member. I invite you to jump on board for the ride. Let yourselves be taken by the play and take from it what you will. But I truly hope you will come away thinking about how our capacity to love each other is challenged when we find ourselves on different paths from those we choose to love. I’m hoping you will come away thinking about the ways in which we show up or don’t show up for others. Where’s the line drawn for putting our own needs ahead of others? And how do those choices ricochet throughout time? For some of you, dear Audience Member, I hope you will investigate your own thoughts about race and how you may be upholding and benefiting from white supremacy.
|Stage directions||Allison Walker|
*Appearing through an Agreement between ANPF and Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
Andrew Lee Creech (he/him) is a Seattle-based writer, performer, and content creator. The Legacy Plays Project–a nine-play, multi-century-spanning meditation on the journeys of Black Americans through pivotal moments in American History–is his long-term undertaking, with the third play in the cycle currently in development. His full-length plays include: Riverwood (2020 Ashland New Plays Festival semifinalist); JOURNEY WEST! The Legend of Lewis & Clark (2018 Gregory Awards People’s Choice Nominee for Outstanding New Play); and The Wild-Hearted. His work has been developed and presented at ACT Theatre, Seattle Public Theater, Copious Love Productions, and Radial Theater Project. Under the name “Papadontcreech,” he has amassed over 80,000 followers across all social media platforms, where he is known for his hit series Breaking News! He has a BFA in theatre with playwriting/directing emphasis from Cornish College of the Arts.
Valerie Curtis-Newton is Head of Directing and Playwriting at University of Washington’s School of Drama. She also serves as the Artistic Director for The Hansberry Project.
Recent credits include Guthrie Theater, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Denver Center Theatre, West of Lenin, ArtsWest, Taper Forum, and New York Theatre Workshop, among others. She has been awarded the National Endowment for the Arts/Theatre Communications Group Career Development Grant for Directors; the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation’s Gielgud Directing Fellowship; Theatre Puget Sound’s Gregory Falls Award for Sustained Achievement; Seattle Times’ 13 Most Influential Citizens of the last decade; the Seattle Stranger Genius Award in Performance; and the Crosscut Courage Award for Culture.
Valerie has a BA from Holy Cross College and an MFA from the University of Washington.