Steve Elm (Oneida), editor of AMERINDA's Talking Stick Native Arts Quarterly, has worked in the arts on both sides of the Atlantic. Trained at London's Rose Bruford College, Steve has appeared as an actor in film, televsion and on the stage. He has worked as a playright and director with London's Common Body Theatre, University of Manchester (England), the American Indian Community House Youth Theatre Project, and was a founding member of Chuka Lokoli Native Theatre Ensemble in New York City. He currently works as an actor with the Only Make Believe company in New York City and is also an actor/teacher with CUNY's Creative Arts Team. He does professional development nationwide as a Master Artist for the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. Steve was recently published in Amerinda/Nation Book's anthology "Genocide of the Mind".
Training and Education:
BA Honors Theatre Arts/Acting Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama
Boal/Forum Theatre Chris Vine, Karina Naumer,
Theatre-in-Education Creative Arts Team/New York University
One Shot Deal - Common Body Theatre, London, England
My Pocahontas - Manchester University, Mancs, England
Indian Givers - American Indian Youth Theatre Project
American Indian Community House, NYC
Columbia University, NYC and tour
My Ugly Child - AICH Youth Theatre Project, AICH, NYC
Indian 101 - AICH Youth Theatre Project, AICH, NYC
Seven Dreams - Chuka Lokoli Theatre Ensemble, NYC
Actor/teacher Creative Arts Team, NYC Wolf Trap Program – develop interactive issue based drama for early learning classrooms, intensive teacher training, curricula development.
Master Artist Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Vienna, Virginia - booked nationally to facilitate professional development workshop entitled “Acting It Out, Working It Out” which explores interactive issue based drama in the early learning classroom.
Sizzlin' Summer of the Stars from Talking Stick Issue 6.3
By Steve Elm
A certain young man I was casually acquainted with was considering a career as an actor. This was the early 90’s, New York. “Dances With Wolves” and “Thunderheart” were on the screens. TV and film epics about Indians were hastily being produced. The town was rife with actors and wannabe actors all clamoring for auditions. The auditions were packed with Indians and wannabe Indians all clamoring for a job. It was a free for all, anarchy at the Equity offices. Suddenly, clip on braids were de rigueur in certain circles. Wig hats were not uncommon. MAC cosmetics faced a run on their darkest foundations. There was talk, only talk, of course, that some actors were even corking up. Surnames suddenly became prefaced with adjectives. In the end, none of this mattered to most of us.
As usual, the white people making these films were only interested in the action west of the Mississippi. Us Eastern Indians just weren’t marketable. So, this certain young man, a denizen of the Lower East Side (always an area where cliques like to refer to their make up as “tribal”), tells me he has decided he can make some money in this rush on Indian actors, maybe even become a bona fide movie star. Plus, he had Cherokee ancestors. Old pro that I am, I inform him that he’ll need to invest in some good head shots before he does anything else. A few days later we meet at a local boite. He is excited. He coyly hands me a big Manila envelope. “I followed your advice” he says, “I got some really good pictures done”.
The first one I pulled
out showed him shirtless with a buck knife clenched between his teeth,
his eyes narrow slits. I felt myself flush. The next one his long
hair was blowing in the wind as he sat bare-chested and chokered on
a chestnut mare. My mouth went dry. After the shot with him in buckskins
holding what I presume was an infant over his head with a pink moon
in the background I began to seize up. My hands curled into arthritic
claws. My head lolled to one side and a bit of spittle escaped from
between my dry and brittle lips. “Nice’, I said. “They
really capture the real you.”.
In this issue of Talking Stick we feature not movie stars but stars in our hearts instead. Talent and a desire to perform is what drives most actors and we are no different in that respect.
We have always sung, danced and told stories to each other. One day we found ourselves doing this for visiting Europeans. Then, the whole world changed. Soon, some of us were in the Wild West Shows. There was vaudeville for a few and snake oil shows for others. Still, countless numbers were shot off cliffs in silent movies and early talkies. We persisted. Why? Well, some just needed a paycheck (in some cities there was no other work for Indians). Others caught the acting bug. And, like all actors, it is in our nature to tell not only our own stories, but also those of others. Yes, shocking and heretical as it sounds, we can even tell white people’s stories. Sadly, the business still sees only red when we ask for more than feather and leather roles. “Indian” is not a character, but tell Hollywood that.
We’ve been in Shakespeare, musical theatre, experimental, drag, burlesque, mime, Jack Nicholson and Woody Allen films, shared stages with Divine and George C. Scott, performed or refused to perform in “Hiawatha”, danced in bustles, danced in hot pants, wore out moccasins and point shoes, sported braids, mohawks, Alexie Sherman mullets and the dry look by Mennen…and…we’re still here. Here are some of us in all our character’s glories. Feast your eyes on these sweethearts; the brightest stars this side of the powwow highway. Talking Stick proudly presents our Sizzling Summer with the Stars!!!