One in two is shocking. It is a number that should horrify everyone. It is the kind of statistic that should make everyone stop what they are doing and look for a solution immediately. But it is not. Instead it is a number that Native women deal with every day without enough notice inside Indian Country, and even less outside. Weekly Alibi sat down with playwright Jay B. Muskett to talk about this statistic that drives his new play opening Thursday. The following is an edited version of that conversation.
Weekly Alibi: What is this play about?
Jay B. Muskett: 1N2IAN is about two Native women who are running away from their past. They think they’re safe, but what they don’t realize is that they can’t run away from their past and this danger that is following them. It is characteristic of what is happening today in Indian Country where a lot of Native woman are being targeted by individuals and ending up either missing or murdered. It’s a big thing that has been happening around Indian Country for a long time. Native women have to grow up just being vigilant. One in two. I play around with the title one in two in the title 1N2IAN. One in two Native women have experienced sexual abuse.
One in two? 50 percent?
Over 50 percent. It’s like 56.1 [percent] or something like that. It’s a horrific stat. This play is about that, essentially. It’s about a woman and a daughter that have to face and live with this danger every day. No matter where they go, it is always something that is following them and always something they have to be vigilant about.
Are you trying to raise awareness or are you trying to simply tell a tale?
I’m doing a little bit of both. This script is a little bit different than what we perceive as Western theater. It’s Native theater. It’s been developed with a Native audience in mind. It’s a ceremonial performance where it’s both storytelling as well as a morality tale. I want to tell the story which is based around this family, but I also want to tell the story of these women that are not around to tell their own story. As a storyteller, as a modern storyteller, as a native storyteller, it’s kind of my duty to do this. To tell the story but also spread awareness that there is danger out there.
How was it to put together the full production?
It’s been good so far. It’s been good to see from the wings just how a non-Native director would take my material and translate it so that a non-Native audience can comprehend it. It’s been real eye-opening. It’s been fun to see all my stuff come alive but also what translates and what doesn’t. What kind of work I still need to do for the script so that it does translate. I want it to be able to reach both audiences; my own Native audience, but also a non-Native audience.
Is it difficult to hand over your work?
I think it is difficult for any artist. Of course. Me and Gleason [Bauer, the director] had a lot of talks. She approached the script from an angle of respect. She knew this would be a learning process and I’ve seen her take that process into her own process. It was great to see she is approaching from that direction. A lot of my fears were alleviated when I saw that. So I said “OK, this is their time. This is the cast and her trying to figure what this is all about for them.” It’s been nice to see what I created is in good hands.
It is an all Native cast?
We have all correct casting. There is one Caucasian character. All the other cast is Native.
Were you writing this for a Native audience or a general audience?
I’m always writing for a Native audience because I’m Native. I figure they are going to get my jokes the first time around. But theater is for everyone. Theater is about community. There should be no one that is turned away from theater.
What message do you want people to take away?
That your story counts. The indigenous stories that [we grew up with] there is a lot of history, a lot of negative history, around that part of the story. However, the other part of the story is look how much we’ve lived through. We’ve lived through invasion, colonialism, boarding schools, smallpox—we lived through all that and we’re still here. This is how we get through it. Through storytelling.