Muriel Miguel and Brownstone Brooklyn’s Native American Bohemia


Tracing their roots to a dozen Indigenous nations within the borders of the United States, Canada, and the Philippines, the artists created the work using the “story weaving” method. Spider Woman Theater developed the technique in the 1970s, when the group became a fixture of the downtown theater scene. Over the years, the company has used it to intertwine narratives on everything from domestic violence to cultural appropriations with pop songs, lewd jokes, and dreamy imagery.

“It’s important to tell these stories, but it must be done in a certain way that people don’t feel like they’ve been hit in the head,” Ms Miguel said. “You can tell a painful story and then tell a horribly disgusting joke and give it a raspberry. You can take things and turn them around.”

Last Monday, Ms. Miguel took a break from her rehearsal program for horseback riding in her neighborhood and told stories about her own childhood. While his wife, Deborah Ratelle, was driving, he sat in the back of a 2012 Toyota Matrix with a red leather hat trimmed with wolf fur on the side seat. Miss Miguel has short, silvery hair and a cascading, shoulder-shaking smile. There were turquoise rings on most of her fingers, and mismatched earrings, one made of turquoise and the other of oyster shells. “I don’t like sameness,” she said.

Heading down Court Street, he pointed to the Cobble Hill Cinema, a longtime movie theater formerly called the Lido. “This was one of those places where my dad stood outside in his outfit to ballyhoo all these movies,” she recalled. His father, a Kuna from Panama, would supplement his earnings as a dockworker by donning a Plains Indian chief’s warhead and inviting people to the theater to see the latest John Wayne painting. He had many jobs like this: playing an ordinary Indian in Thanksgiving pageants, performing at so-called Thanksgiving commemorations. sale of Manhattan to the Dutch.

In the summer he would take Miss Miguel’s older sisters with him. city ​​of goldA long-forgotten amusement park in Brooklyn’s Canarsie neighborhood where they’ll dance, sing and sit on the hills. Gloria, who played the role of The Elder in “Misdemeanor Dream,” was terrified of these trips. “People would come and look and say, ‘Oh, look at the Indians, they’re eating spaghetti,’” she recalled. As a divorced mother of two children in her late 40s, she gave up on doing any theatrical work on her legacy until she joined her sisters to set up Spiderwoman Theatre. “We have to tell our stories our own way,” she said.



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