It’s almost time for our next production, It’s almost time for our next production, Return to Niobrara, a play by Mary Kathryn Nagle.We’ve assembled some special information to help you and your family to get ready for the upcoming performance. Before you go to the show, you might want to take a few moments
to review this “Know Before You Go” Guide so everyone will know what
to expect from the performance!
The Story You Will See
Steven is a high school student and a member of the Ponca tribe. He mostly just tries to get through his school days without making a lot of waves. Unfortunately he finds he is a target of some relentless bullies at his school because of his appearance and his culture. One day Steven decides he has had enough and makes a decision to fight back. As a result he finds himself in the principal’s office and, to his family’s surprise, accused of violating a discriminatory school
policy. As Steven and his family are navigating the issue and deciding what to do, he learns that 140 years ago, his great-great grandfather, Chief Standing Bear, fought a very important civil rights battle in court against the discriminatory policies of the United States. Inspired by the courageous acts of his ancestor (who appears to him in dreams) — and with the loving and determined support of his family — Steven decides to wage his own fight for what is right. In scenes combining figures from history and the present, Steven must discover the strong relationship between his past and his future in order to claim his right to be who he is, no matter the final result of his quest for justice.
Claire M. Hubbard Foundation
JAN 25 – FEB 10 | 75 minutes without an intermission | Historical Fiction Drama for AGES 8+
Know Before You Go
Here are some things your family might like to “Know Before You Go”:
Return to Niobrara begins with a bullying incident that escalates into a fight when a student decides to take a stand. You may want to prepare some younger audience members by having a conversation before the show about bullying.
This play examines the tense dynamic between white people and Native people. A complicated history full broken promises and inhumane treatment of native people has resulted in a great deal of mistrust which is represented in the way characters talk to each other on stage. You may want to talk to your child before you go about these issues.
This play involves two court cases, one in the present and one in the late 1800s. The characters frequently use legal language that one might hear during a
trial or a meeting with an attorney, particularly the term “habeas corpus,” that literally means, “you have the body” in Latin (which is of relevance since the government argues that Native Americans are not “persons” under the law.) Some terms and phrases may be confusing to younger audience members. You may want to be prepared to discuss the trial scenes with your family after the show to help them understand what the trials were all about.
Because the story is making strong connections between historical events and current realities, there are some scenes in
which Steven, the main protagonist, seems to be living in the past and present at the same time. Older audiences will probably be able to understand what is going on in the story, but younger audience members may have more difficulty making sense of these scenes. You may find it helpful to have a conversation after the show to answer questions and clear up any confusion about the timeline of events.
A primary theme of this story is the discrimination that Native people have faced and continue to face in the United States. Some characters make blunt statements regarding their
political views related to discrimination that some people may find troubling, provocative, or, depending on the sensitivities of the individual, offensive.
In keeping with the historical context of the show, guns and other weapons are carried as props. There are no gunshots fired during the show.
The Characters You Will Meet
In the Present:
STEVEN PRIMEAU—A high school student and a member of the Ponca nation. Steven finds himself persecuted for who he is when he is bullied for his appearance, his culture, and his beliefs. He decides to take a stand and fight back, leading to an eventual court case over a discriminatory school policy. As he prepares to make his stand, Steven discovers that he is a descendant of Chief Standing Bear who had fought his own important battle in court to be recognized as a human being entitled to equal protection under the law.
BETSY PRIMEAU—Steven’s older sister. She is very supportive of him as he decides to take a stand and fight for his beliefs, even though they have the typical dynamic of siblings who sometimes annoy one another.
SUZIE, STEVEN’S MOM—A caring and concerned parent, Steven’s mother is very supportive of her son and wants the best for him even as he navigates a difficult situation. She also has practical concerns about her son’s future and is willing to make sacrifices to make sure Steven gets an
education and goes on to a brighter tomorrow.
LOUIS, STEVEN’S DAD—Steven’s father is a quiet man who keeps a lot of his feelings hidden. When he does speak, he often cuts right to heart of the matter. He supports
his son while acknowledging the unfair circumstances that native people deal with on a daily basis. He has his own very personal connection to Steven’s fight for justice.
TOM—Betsy’s boyfriend who is white and a reporter for the
school paper. Tom wants to support Steven in his fight, but discovers that his good intentions need to fortified with more knowledge and understanding if he intends to be an ally to Steven.
PRINCIPAL MCGOVERN—the principal at Steven’s school who in charge of enforcing the “hair length policy”
that Steven decides to fight. Based on his words and actions, it is clear he has a lot to learn about the lives of his Native students.
JACK CHAMBERS—The lawyer who takes Steven’s case to fight against the fairness of the school’s hair policy. BOB LAMBERT—The lawyer for the school who fights to defend the school’s hair policy.
In the Past:
·BEAR SHIELD—the son of Chief Standing Bear. When he learns he is dying during the march along the Ponca Trail of Tears, Bear Shield asks his father, Chief Standing Bear, to bury him beside their ancestors along the Niobrara River.
CHIEF STANDING BEAR—a northern Ponca chief who decides to go to court to defend his right to equal protection under United States law. He is arrested for attempting to fulfill his son’s burial wishes and decides to sue General Crook and the United States Government.
SUSETTE PRIMEAU—the wife of Chief Standing Bear and the mother of Prairie Flower and Bear Shield. She has sacrificed a great deal and suffered great loss.
PRAIRIE FLOWER—Bear Shield’s sister and Chief Standing Bear’s daughter who also died on the Trail of Tears.
BRIGHT EYES—The daughter of the Chief of the Omaha people. She is a friend to Chief Standing Bear and the Ponca people, and serves as an English translator for Standing Bear when he is imprisoned.
THOMAS HENRY TIBBLES—A reporter with the Omaha Herald who writes an article about Chief Standing Bear’s story that helps to develop support for his cause.
GENERAL CROOK—The general who arrests Chief Standing Bear on orders from the American Government and President Hayes in Washington, D.C. He is somewhat sympathetic to Chief Standing Bear’s situation and the suffering of the Poncas that he witnesses, but he is also bound by the law. However, he thinks a court challenge might be a way change things.
LAMBERTSON—United States District Attorney at the time of Chief Standing Bear’s case. He defends laws of the United States, including its Indian Removal Policy, in 1879.
ANDREW J. POPPLETON—The attorney who takes Chief Standing Bear’s case to sue the U.S. Government to determine that Indians have the right to be recognized as persons under the law.
From Story to Stage
The playwright is Mary Kathryn Nagle. She is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and a partner at the law firm of Pipestem Law, P.C. where she works to protect tribal sovereignty and the inherent right of Indian Nations to protect their women and children from domestic violence and sexual assault.
Mary Kathryn Nagle writes books and plays about the Native American experience, including a play called Waaxe’s Law about the trial of Standing Bear that was performed in Omaha 10 years ago. Return to Niobrara is Ms. Nagle’s first play created specifically for young audiences.
Return to Niobrara is inspired by the true story of Chief Standing Bear, a leader of the Ponca people who stood up in court and demanded that a federal judge recognize that Indians were “persons” under the law. Chief Standing Bear was detained at Fort Crook in Nebraska and the trial was held at courthouse in Downtown Omaha just 3 blocks from the Rose Theater on Farnam Street.
Director Roxanne Wach is the Executive Director of the Shelterbelt Theater here in Omaha, where she has directed many critically acclaimed productions. This is the first play she has directed for the Rose Theater. Ms. Wach and Ms. Nagle enjoy a strong
creative partnership and have collaborated on numerous theater projects together.
The Rose is located in downtown Omaha at 2001 Farnam Street on the southwest corner of 20th & Farnam Streets.
From west Omaha, take I-80 East to 1-480 North and exit onto 20th Street. The Rose is located on Farnam Street, approximately three blocks south of the 20th Street exit.
The closest and most convenient parking is available for $2 in the garage at 19th & Harney, courtesy of the Omaha Douglas Public Building Commission (1910 Harney St., Omaha, NE 68102). Parking meters surrounding the theater are active from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with free parking available on Sundays and holidays. A variety of parking lots are available around the theater, as well, ranging in cost from $2-$5.
While at The Rose
Join Our Post-Performance Q&A Session! A few minutes after the performance, our actors will conduct a Question & Answer session from the stage. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the scenery, costumes, special effects, and other aspects of the production. The actors may even have a question or two for you about the story.
Meet the Cast & Get an Autograph! Some performers will be available after the show to say hello, pose in pictures, and sign their
autographs for you. You can meet them on the mezzanine level right outside the entrance to our balcony level seats.Take Home a Souvenir! The Rose Guild presents a souvenir stand before and after each performance offering a variety of fun and inexpensive show-related mementos. The proceeds help to support the great education programs at The Rose Theater!