Dead White Writer on the Floor

Nov 6th, 2012 | By | Category: 24-2: The Future of the Tribal College Movement, Media Reviews

Talon Press (2011)

Review by Ryan Winn

A blend of theater of the absurd and murder mystery, Ojibwa writer Drew Hayden Taylor’s play, Dead White Writer on the Floor, is a hilarious and thought-provoking commentary on the portrayal of contemporary Indigenous characters.

In the first act, six stereotypical American Indian characters from fiction, television, and film find themselves locked in a room with the body of a dead white writer. They promptly hide the body in a closet, then engage in a conversation that is equal parts exposition, finger pointing, and self-realization. It becomes clear that despite how white writers typically portrayed them, the Native characters have hopes and aspirations beyond their one-sided representations.

At the end of the first act the characters discover the writer’s computer is a means to redefine themselves and the second act finds the six of them arguing in an Alcoholic Anonymous’ meeting. In their new surroundings the characters embody contemporary American Indian stereotypes– and the resulting conversations prove that the play is as rich in message as its title is startling.

Ryan Winn is the Humanities Department chair at College of Menominee Nation in Keshena and Green Bay, WI.

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