College of Menominee Nation Aids in Revival of Historic Pageants

Aug 15th, 2016 | By | Category: Online TC News, Tribal College News, Web Exclusive

Photo by D. Kakkak/CMN

Faculty and students of the College of Menominee Nation (CMN) helped revive a long-lost tribal tradition with the summer staging of a pageant that was last presented in the 1960s. The setting was the Menominee Nation’s Woodland Bowl. The outdoor theater was constructed in 1937 to host popular community theatrical productions known as the Menominee pageants, each based on original scripts and featuring local performers.

Although the productions had long-since ceased, the pageants lived on in fragmentary posters, clippings, and other artifacts, and in the memories of community elders. Under a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board, Professor Ryan Winn of the CMN theater faculty began seeking information to help develop an archive of the pageants’ history, and perhaps a revival of the shows. An award from CMN’s Scott Zager Venture Fund and research by two Menominee students—Melinda Cook and Lloyd Frieson—brought the effort to fruition.

As the team spread word of their project in the community, families stepped forward to share memorabilia and personal recollections. A prize piece was an original script by Menominee playwright James G. Frechette dating from the 1950s that his daughter, Grace Bee Frechette Wilber, shared. Auditions brought out CMN students, alumni, and community residents, including some related to original cast and crew members. The August revival of Frechette’s show blended pantomime, live music, and dance with recorded oration and sound effects to recall the original pageant production.

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