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Inter Tribal Playwright Center of Arlee announces kick-off theater event this August 22-23

William S. Yellowrobe, Jr. (courtesy photo)William S. Yellowrobe, Jr. (courtesy photo)

ARLEE — It is the realization of a long time dream for the Arlee community and for William S. YellowRobe, Jr. – nationally acclaimed playwright and enrolled member of the Assiniboine Tribe of the Assinboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, located in northeastern Montana.

The dream of a national playwright center dedicated to Native writers – a playwright center, located on an Indian reservation, with a primary mission of introducing the craft of writing and its corollary theater related disciplines into tribal communities as a means to healthy individuals and healthy communities.

And then, of course, to create residency opportunities for current native playwrights, and to provide “ladders” for tribal people interesting in pursuing various theater arts as careers.

The lifelong commitments of Artistic Director William S. YellowRobe, Jr. and Associate Artistic Director Keith Conway (Blackfeet) to theater and to native communities create a strong base for this new undertaking – the only one of its kind in the United States.

YellowRobe began his work with the Arlee community in 2001 as co-artistic director (along with Linda Grinde) of a Theater Arts Camp for youth at the Arlee Pow Wow grounds. With support from Missoula Writing Collaborative he then offered two successful community writing residencies at the Hangin Art Gallery in Arlee in 2002 and 2003. During those years the impetus for the playwright center in Arlee emerged. But before it could be realized, YellowRobe received a prestigious fellowship at Trinity Repertory Theater in Providence, Rhode Island and his professional life took him to the east coast for 11 years. Over these years he has continued to receive national recognition for his work. Most recently he was the recipient of a Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency for 2014. He completed a full length play adaptation of the novel “Powwow Highway” by David Seals for the stage, presented by the American ndian Arts Association (AMERINDA), in a staged reading a the Lark Play Development Center in New York City, which is scheduled for a full production this fall.

An audience listens in as William S. Yellowrobe recites pieces from his works at the Hangin' Art Gallery. (Courtesy photo)An audience listens in as William S. Yellowrobe recites pieces from his works at the Hangin' Art Gallery. (Courtesy photo)

Through it all, YellowRobe’s commitment to community remains a center point of his life. (see his National Endowment of the Arts interview from earlier this year at ) July 2013 was an opportunity for Bill to return to Arlee as Artistic Director of KwKwusm Theatre Project’s 3rd Annual Native American Playwrighting Festival”. During that time, the dream of the playwright center emerged again, and Bill and his wife Jeanne moved back to Montana, to Arlee at the southern entrance to the Flathead Indian Reservation, in late May 2014 to make the dream a reality.

Organizers invite the public to kick-off this exciting undertaking on August 22 and 23 at Hangin Art Gallery on Highway 93, with a reading of “Frog’s Dance” by William S. YellowRobe, Jr. The reading is directed by William S. YellowRobe, Jr. with Keith Conway as “Frog”

Pre-show discussion with YellowRobe and the cast begins at 6 p.m. with the performance at 7 p.m. followed by a panel discussion. Open admission with a free will donation.

In this one-act play Frog is a middle aged man who feels his life is fractured leaving him in a life of being useless and of pity to those around him. He is contacted by his sister, Elaine, and is informed that he has to prepare for the arrival of his nephew, Elmo. Frog is given the task of teaching Elmo to dance ‘traditional’ at the upcoming powwow’s honoring dance for his late parents. Frog, being a former competition dancer, lost some of his physical capabilities in a horrific accident. The struggle of Frog’s fate is not physical, but is held within his own heart.

The Arlee Community Development Center is currently providing administrative structure and assistance in funding for the Inter Tribal Playwright Center. Established in 2002 it is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to culturally appropriate economic development and social strength of the community. This project is at the center of a larger strategic plan to establish the Jocko Valley as an arts and culture destination.

For information about ways you can help support the Inter Tribal Playwright Center contact: Donna Mollica, Executive Director of Arlee CDC at (406) 370-3358 or by email at

The Arlee Community Development Corporation will assist and foster the planning and development of projects deemed to be beneficial socially, physically, economically and culturally to the public interest of the Arlee-Jocko Valley community.

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