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By Mary Kathryn Nagle
Directed by Molly Smith

January 12 — February 18, 2018
Kreeger Theater

Some wounds refuse to heal. Mary Kathryn Nagle’s daring new work, which debuts as the fourth production in Arena Stage’s Power Plays initiative, travels the intersections of personal and political truths, historic and present struggles. Sarah Ridge Polson, a young Cherokee lawyer fighting to restore her Nation’s jurisdiction, must confront the ever-present ghosts of her grandfathers. With shadows stretching from 1830s Cherokee Nation (now present-day Georgia) and Andrew Jackson’s White House to the Cherokee Nation in present-day Oklahoma, Sovereignty asks how high the flames of anger can rise before they ultimately consume the truth.

Sovereignty was generously commissioned by Drs. Elliot and Lily Gardner Feldman and BakerHostetler as part of Arena Stage’s Women’s Voices Power Play Cycle.

Additional Commissioning support provided by The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation’s Women Playwrights Commissioning Program.


Joseph CarlsonJOSEPH CARLSON (Andrew Jackson / Ben) makes his Arena Stage debut. D.C. credits include Colossal (Olney Theater Center, Helen Hayes nomination), The Night Alive (Round House) and Macbeth in Voodoo Macbeth (American Century Theater). Regional credits include Stanley in Streetcar Named Desire (The Firehouse Theater, RTCC Award nomination); Tom Joad in Grapes of Wrath (Virginia Repertory Theater); Dancing at Lughnasa (Tantrum Theater); and most recently the East Coast premiere of Karen Rizzo’s Mutual Philanthropy (New Jersey Repertory). TV credits include Turn (AMC), Frank James in American West (AMC) produced by Robert Redford, and Frontiersmen (History Channel) produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, where he stars as legendary explorer Cpt. William Clark. As a citizen artist, Joe is an Artistic Associate with The Conciliation Project, and holds an M.F.A. in Ritual Poetic Drama within the African Continuum.

Kyla GarciaKYLA GARCÍA (Sarah Polson) is a B.F.A. graduate of Rutgers University. TV/Film credits include Cable Girls (Netflix), Marvel Agents of SHIELD (ABC) and Shotgun Wedding (Netflix). Select stage credits include the world premiere of Fairly Traceable (Native Voices at the Autry), Alice Chan (La Jolla Playhouse Pop Tour), Antigone (A Noise Within) and Se Llama Cristina (The Theatre @ Boston Court). Favorite storytelling moments include narrating over 80 audiobooks and creating the critically acclaimed one-woman show The Mermaid Who Learned How to Fly.

Michael GlennMICHAEL GLENN (Samuel Worcester / Mitch) returns to Arena Stage, having appeared in Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery and Good People. Michael is a D.C.-based actor who has performed on dozens of stages in the area. Favorite past productions include School for Lies (Shakespeare Theatre Company); Jumpers for Goalposts (Studio Theatre); Brighton Beach Memoirs (Theater J); Cat’s Cradle and The Hothouse (Longacre Lea); Clybourne Park (Woolly Mammoth); Stage Kiss and THIS (Round House); Sense & Sensibility, Henry VII, Arcadia (Folger Theatre); Scapin (Constellation Theater); and The Lieutenant of Inishmore (Signature Theatre). Michael does voice over work for Graphic Audio, where he has performed as The Flash, Sinestro and Star Lord, as well as a host of cowboys, outlaws, mutants and magicians. He can be seen next as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood (Imagination Stage).

Jake HartJAKE HART (Elias Boudinot / Watie) makes his Arena Stage debut. Recent TV credits include The Blacklist (NBC), The Deuce (HBO), Shades of Blue (NBC) and others. Coming up this season, you can catch him on Sneaky Pete (Amazon). Select New York theater credits include Jesus Hopped the A Train (Atlantic), Smoke (Signature Theater), Winter’s Tale (HERE Arts Center), The Public Theater Shakespeare Lab and others. Jake has spent years traveling across the country, even making a stop at Round House Theatre while on tour with Grandchildren of The Buffalo Soldiers. As a video game and voice actor, Jake can be heard as Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series, and will soon be heard as a certain giant robot that transforms into a large truck. Please protect indigenous America W’anishi, Wado, thank you.

Kalani QueypoKALANI QUEYPO (John Ridge) makes his Arena Stage debut. He is a founding member of SAG-AFTRA’s National Native American Committee and serves on the Advisory Council for Native Voices Theater at the Autry Museum of the American West. Before moving to L.A., Kalani trained in New York and was featured on stages all over the country including Goodspeed, Trinity Repertory, Mark Taper Forum, The Wilma Theater and The Ordway. Kalani has appeared in Terrence Malick’s Oscar Award nominated The New World and Steven Spielberg’s Emmy Award-winning Into the West and Slow West (Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize). TV credits include Mad Men, Nurse Jackie, Bones, Hawaii Five-0 and a critically-acclaimed performance as Squanto in Saints & Strangers. Kalani is currently shooting a second season of Jamestown with the producers of Downton Abbey.

Andrew RoaANDREW ROA (Major Ridge / Roger Ridge Polson) is making his Arena Stage debut. An award-winning actor, director, and film maker, his stage credits include the premiere of Black Elk Speaks (Denver Center Theatre/Mark Taper Forum), The Spirit of Pocahontas (Disneyland Theater), Equus (Nevada Repertory) and Happy (Montana Repertory). Since 1999, he has been a founding Company Member of Native Voices at the Autry, playing roles in Please Do Not Touch the Indians (Outstanding Theatre Performance, First Americans in the Arts) and Kino and Teresa, among others, and directing and mentoring young playwrights. Film/TV credits include Picking up the Pieces, Fame, Quantum Leap, The Ellen Burstyn Show and The Iceman Chronicles. Andrew is also a film director and screenwriter with five features and several shorts to his credit.

Dorea SchmidtDOREA SCHMIDT (Sarah Bird Northrup / Flora Ridge / Offstage Woman's Voice) is so glad to be returning to Arena Stage after performing as Mrs. Sowerberry/Mrs. Bedwin in Oliver! and Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof. Other D.C. credits include School for Lies (Shakespeare Theatre Company); Caroline, or Change (Round House); Collective Rage (Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Helen Hayes Award Outstanding Supporting Actress); Carousel and Mary Poppins (Olney Theatre Center); The Love of the Nightingale (Constellation Theatre Company); and The Fantasticks, Black Comedy and The Last 5 Years (No Rules Theatre Company). Regional credits include My Fair Lady (The Cape Playhouse) and Crimes of the Heart and The Beaux’ Stratagem (Everyman Theatre). She attended The National Theatre Institute and the William Esper Studio. Dorea is a proud company member of Actors Arena and Only Make Believe.

Todd ScofieldTODD SCOFIELD (White Chorus Man) returns to Arena Stage after appearing in The City of Conversation. Over the past 13 years, he has worked with Shakespeare Theatre Company (As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, The Importance of Being Earnest, Twelfth Night), Folger Theatre (The Tempest, Measure for Measure, Henry VIII, Mary Stuart), Round House (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, NSFW, Stage Kiss), Theater J (C.S. Lewis in Freud’s Last Session, Bal Masque), Adventure Theatre (Winnie the Pooh), Studio Theatre, Everyman Theatre, Olney Theatre Center and Ford’s Theatre. Outside of the D.C.-area, Todd worked at Arden Theatre Company and spent four seasons at the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival. On TV, he was seen in recurring roles on seasons three and five of The Wire.

JAKE WAID (John Ross / Jim Ross) makes his Arena Stage debut. He was last seen in D.C. as the title role in Macbeth (Perseverance Theatre), which was translated into the language of his Tlingit tribe, and culminated with a run at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Other credits include Twelfth Night (Shakespeare and Company); Cymbeline (Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival); Hamlet (Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre); George Bonga: Black Voyageur (History Theatre); the road weeps, the well runs dry (Pillsbury House); and Raven Odyssey, The Crucible, Moby Dick and Genesis (Perseverance Theatre). He has also worked with La Jolla Playhouse, Native Voices at the Autry and Working Class Theatre. He studied at Cornish College and Freehold Actors Studio.


MOLLY SMITH (Director) has served as Artistic Director since 1998. Her more than 30 directing credits at Arena Stage include The Originalist, Fiddler on the Roof, Camp David, Carousel, Mother Courage and Her Children, Oklahoma!, A Moon for the Misbegotten, My Fair Lady, The Great White Hope, The Music Man, Legacy of Light, The Women of Brewster Place, Cabaret, South Pacific, All My Sons and How I Learned to Drive. Her directorial work has also been seen at Canada’s Shaw Festival, Pasadena Playhouse, The Old Globe, Asolo Repertory, Berkeley Repertory, Trinity Repertory, Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre, Montreal’s Centaur Theatre and Perseverance Theater in Juneau, Alaska, which she founded and ran from 1979-1998. Molly has been a leader in new play development for over 30 years. She is a great believer in first, second and third productions of new work and has championed projects including Dear Evan Hansen; Next to Normal; Passion Play, a cycle; and How I Learned to Drive. She has worked alongside playwrights Sarah Ruhl, Paula Vogel, Wendy Wasserstein, Lawrence Wright, Karen Zacarías, John Murrell, Eric Coble, Charles Randolph-Wright and many others. She led the re-invention of Arena Stage, focusing on the architecture and creation of the Mead Center for American Theater and positioning Arena Stage as a national center for American artists. During her time with the company, Arena Stage has workshopped more than 100 productions, produced 39 world premieres, staged numerous second and third productions and been an important part of nurturing nine projects that went on to have a life on Broadway. In 2014, Molly made her Broadway debut directing The Velocity of Autumn, following its critically acclaimed run at Arena Stage. She was awarded honorary doctorates from American University and Towson University. This summer, she will direct The Originalist Off-Broadway at 59E59 Theaters.

MARY KATHRYN NAGLE (Playwright) is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She currently serves as the executive director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program. She is also a partner at 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. She has authored numerous briefs in federal appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court. She has received commissions from Arena Stage; The Rose Theater in Omaha, Nebraska; Portland Center Stage; Denver Center; and Yale Repertory. Her other plays include Manahatta, Return to Niobrara, Mnisose, Diamonds, Waaxe’s Law, Sliver of a Full Moon, My Father’s Bones, Miss Lead and Fairly Traceable.

ANITA MAYNARD-LOSH (Associate and Text Director) is in her 14th season at Arena Stage. She directed the world premiere of Our War and served as associate director on several productions, including Carousel, Oliver! and Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End. Anita trained and taught at American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, was on the faculty at Webster University in St. Louis, headed the theater department at the University of Alaska Southeast and was the associate artistic director of Perseverance Theater in Juneau, Alaska. The Alaska native-inspired production of Macbeth that Anita conceived and directed was performed in English and Tlingit at the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C. Through Arena Stage’s devised theater program, Voices of Now, Anita has collaborated on creating and directing original plays with communities in India and Croatia.

KEN MACDONALD (Set Designer) designed the set for The Shoplifters at Arena Stage. Ken’s recent design credits include A Thousand Splendid Suns (San Francisco’s A.C.T. and Theatre Calgary); The Barber of Seville and Macbeth (Pacific Opera Victoria); Madness of King George, Engaged and Our Town (Canada’s Shaw Festival); Wanderlust (Stratford Festival); Parfumerie (Soulpepper Theatre, Toronto); The Arsonists and Vigil (Canadian Stage); Vigil (San Francisco’s A.C.T.); and Sextet, Amorous Adventures of Anantol and The Dishwashers (Tarragon Theatre, Toronto). Awards include Gemini Award for Outstanding Production Design, The Overcoat (CBC); two Dora Mavor Moore Awards, a Betty Mitchell Award and 17 Jessie Richardson Awards.

LINDA CHO (Costume Designer) made her Arena Stage debut with Orpheus Descending (2004) and now returns for her 12th production. Broadway credits include Anastasia (Tony Award nomination); A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder (Tony Award); and Velocity of Autumn. Other Washington designs include Dog in the Manger and Macbeth at Shakespeare Theatre Company. Linda’s work has also been seen Off-Broadway, at numerous regional theaters and Opera companies, and she will have her Metropolitan Opera debut next season with Samson et Dalila. Linda is the proud recipient of the Irene Sharaff Young Master Award and has been honored with the Ruth Morely Design Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women. Linda is an alumnus of McGill University and holds an M.F.A from the Yale School of Drama.

ROBERT WIERZEL (Lighting Designer) has worked with artists from diverse disciplines and backgrounds in theater, dance, contemporary music, museums and opera on stages throughout the country and abroad. He has designed at most major regional theaters across the country including Arena Stage, A.C.T San Francisco, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, The Guthrie, Shakespeare Theatre DC, Hartford Stage, Goodman Theatre-Chicago, Alliance Theatre- Atlanta, Mark Taper Fourm-L.A., and Long Wharf Thetre among many others. Broadway productions include Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill starring Audra McDonald: FELA! (Tony Award nomination) and David Copperfield’s debut in Dreams and Nightmares. Robert has designed with opera companies in New York, Paris, Tokyo, Norway, Toronto, Boston, Seattle, San Diego, Houston, Dallas, Washington D.C., Virginia, Florida, Atlanta and Chicago, and over 50 productions with Glimmerglass Festival. His dance work includes 32 years with Bill T. Jones and the BTJ/AZ Company.

ED LITTLEFIELD (Sound Designer) is a freelance percussionist, educator and composer based out of Seattle, WA. He is Tlingit from Sitka, Alaska and has released two albums featuring traditional native melodies with the Native Jazz Quartet called “Walking Between Worlds” and “NJQ: Stories” Ed has played K’alyaan in the premier of Battles of Fire and Water and written and performed an original score for Eurydice for Perseverance Theater in Juneau, Alaska. He has done sound design and composition for the world premieres of Our Voices Will Be Heard and composition and cultural advisor for They Don’t Talk Back at Native voices at the Autry, La Jolla Playhouse and Perseverance Theater. Most recently he was the composer and sound designer for Off the Rails at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

MARK HOLTHUSEN (Projection Designer) makes his Arena Stage debut. His career spans photography, motion, theater and digital innovation. From album art to music videos, Mark has created distinctive work for performers including Roger Waters, American Music Club, The Tiger Lillies, 16 Horsepower and The Dodos. In 2009, Roger Waters and Sony Music asked Mark to rethink traditional stage design for the debut of Waters’ opera, Ça Ira. Over 120 of Mark’s photographs served as the opera’s sole visual narration and were met by critical acclaim. In 2012, Mark and The Tiger Lillies collaborated on a performance of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Mark’s award-winning work has been lauded by Communication Arts, Graphis, American Photography and PDN. Mark has also won the IPA Photographer of the Year Awards for both Advertising and Music.

JON AITCHISON (Wig Designer) is happy to be returning to Arena Stage. He was most recently Wig Master at Arena for She Loves Me in the 2006/07 Season. He has designed for the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, Wolf Trap Opera Company, and Centerstage.

LEWIS SHAW (Fight Director) returns to Arena Stage after last season’s A Raisin in the Sun. Regional credits include A Streetcar Named Desire, Wait Until Dark, Great Expectations, Deathtrap and Ruined (Everyman Theater, resident company member); Nabucco and Don Giovanni (Washington National Opera); and A Skull in Cinemas, Snow Falling on Cedars and Bus Stop (Baltimore Center Stage). Lewis is the owner/operator of Vulcan’s Forge, and has made weapons and action props for many regional and Broadway productions, as well as The Vampire Diaries, Gotham, Daredevil, Iron Fist and the upcoming Defenders.

JOCELYN CLARKE (Dramaturg) is currently Theatre Adviser to the Arts Council of Ireland and Dramaturg at American Voices New Play Institute at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. He has taught dramaturgy at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Columbia University and Trinity College Dublin. He was the Commissioning and Literary Manager of the Abbey Theatre for four years, and lead theater critic with The Sunday Tribune for nine years. He is an associate artist with The Civilians and Theatre Mitu in New York. He has written six plays for Anne Bogart and the SITI Company — Bob, Alice’s Adventures Underground, Room, Score, Antigone and Trojan Women (After Euripides) – and Chess Game No. 5, his new collaboration with the company, premiered in New York in March.

ZACH CAMPION (Vocal Coach) is a freelance voice, speech and dialect coach and once worked in the Arena Stage sales office. D.C. credits include voice/dialect coach for The Price and Smart People (Arena Stage); Hand to God (Helen Hayes Award-winning) and Terminus (Studio Theatre); the world premiere of The Gulf (Signature Theatre); Sweeney Todd and My Fair Lady (Olney Theatre Center); Angels in America Part 1 and 2 (Round House); and When the Rain Stops Falling (Helen Hayes Award-winning, 1st Stage). Upcoming projects include On the Town and The Invisible Hand (Olney Theatre Center). Zach is a certified teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework© and is a member of the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory faculty. Education: M.F.A -Virginia Commonwealth University, B.F.A. Texas State University.

SUSAN R. WHITE (Stage Manager) is thrilled to be a part of Arena’s 68th season and to be working, once again, with Artistic Director Molly Smith. Susan is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association.

TREVOR A. RILEY (Assistant Stage Manager)’s previous Arena Stage credits include The Price, Intelligence, Carousel, Destiny of Desire and Our War. Other D.C.-area credits include The Jungle Book, Jack and Phil, Slayers of Giants-INC, A Year with Frog and Toad and Sinbad: The Untold Tale (Imagination Stage); My Fair Lady, The Diary of Anne Frank, Bakersfield Mist, Godspell and A Christmas Carol (Olney Theatre Center); and Just The Two of Each of Us, Appropriate, Detroit and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Woolly Mammoth).


Photo Gallery

Cherokee Language Translations

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with the Playwright

MOLLY SMITH: This play is political; it’s social; it’s about now; it’s about the 1830s. Talk to us a little bit about it.

MARY KATHRYN NAGLE: Well, I definitely started thinking about it in my role as an attorney. I have worked in the United States Supreme Court, and one day I was sitting in there, listening to an argument, and I actually thought: my grandfathers were here in the 1830s. What is that connection between my great-great-great grandfather who worked on Worcester v. Georgia in 1832 and the work that I do today? 180 years ago, my great-great-great grandfather, Major Ridge, served as the speaker of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council — the council that established our Cherokee Nation Supreme Court.

In 1978, unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court stripped Tribal Nations of their inherent criminal jurisdiction over the non-Indians who come onto Tribal Lands and commit crimes. Today, our Native women face higher rates of domestic violence, sexual assault and murder than any other population in the United States. The Department of Justice reports that the majority of those violent crimes against our native people are committed by non-Natives. So, because of this Supreme Court decision, the majority of the violent crimes committed against our people, cannot be prosecuted by our own governments.

MS: So, our audiences, I think are the smartest audiences in the country. This is the absolute perfect time and place to be producing this play because it uncovers a world that most Americans know very little about. Talk to us a little bit more about the meat of the play. Because it really, I mean, it starts in a casino.

MKN: That’s true. Most people, if they know anything about us, they know we have casinos. So I thought, start with something familiar. The play takes place in two time periods — the 1830s and today. And every character, every actor, who plays someone in the past, plays someone in the present. And that was really important to me, because I see history repeating itself and I think we have to connect the two. Otherwise we’re not going to be able to solve the problems from the past that keep resurfacing today.

But it is also a love story, and I start with the love story of my great-great-great grandfather who went to a boarding school in Connecticut. Cherokee Nation citizen, John Ridge was his name, fell in love with the school master’s daughter, Sarah Bird Northrup. What does it mean — these relationships, these marriages — across racial lines? What does it mean in the 1830s? What does it mean today? The play has two love stories — one set in the past, one set in the present — and you see the treatment and the similarities between what happened then and what happens today.

In The News


A Special Post-Show Discussion

Feminist, journalist and socio-political activist Gloria Steinem will join playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle for a special post-show discussion following the 7:30 p.m. performance on Sunday, January 28. Director Molly Smith will moderate the conversation on tribal sovereignty and sovereignty of the female body.

Post-Show Discussions

Wednesday, January 31 after the 12 p.m. show

Tuesday, February 6 after the 7:30 p.m. show

Wednesday, February 7 after the 12 p.m. show

Tuesday, February 13 after the 12 p.m. show

Thursday, February 15 after the 8 p.m. show


Audio Described

January 27, 2018 – 2:00 p.m.

Open Captioned

February 1, 2018 – 8:00 p.m.
February 14, 2018 – 7:30 p.m.
February 17, 2018 – 2:00 p.m.

Sovereignty runs approximately two hours with one intermission. Please be advised this production includes violence and domestic violence as well as atmospheric effects.