Archive for the ‘plays’ Category

Endangered languages center stage in “Language Archive”

14 April 2011

Julia Cho‘s play “The Language Archive” is a comedy about a linguist who documents endangered languages, which are a metaphor for human communication.

Debuting March 26, 2010, at the South Coast Repertory in the US, the play won the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and is currently playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon through June 18 under the direction of Laurie Woolery.

This blog entry was inspired by “Ashland’s ‘Language Archive’ Speaks to Our Complexity.”

Tongva on Stage in Toronto, Tackling Forced Sterilization

9 March 2011

Gabrielino-Fernandeño or Tongva (xgf) is a sleeping tongue. Spoken by the Tongva or San Gabriel Band near Los Angeles, the language survived until the 1970s when the last native or partial speaker passed away.

“Tombs of the Vanishing Indian,” which includes spoken Tongva, is playing on stage at the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in Toronto. Written by Marie Clements and directed by Yvonne Nolan, the play will run from tomorrow through March 27. Speaking Tongva is actor Michelle St. John, whose heritage language is an Eastern Algonquian (family) language.

A topic of the play is the forced sterilization of Native women as a policy of the US government.

Was there such a policy? Cecil Adams essentially says no—at least not on a large scale—on the Straight Dope. Jane Lawrence discusses forced sterilization in the American Indian Quarterly and Josie Tamez provides an overview in the Atlantic Free Press of eugenics and sterilization in the US with respect to Native Americans and concludes at least 3400 women were sterilized, a figure that would be proportionate to 452,000 non-Native women.

An exciting footnote: Keepers of Indigenous Ways is working to awaken Tongva again. To learn some Tongva, order their phrase book, “Now You’re Speaking Our Language,” available for USD 5.30.

This blog entry was inspired by the article Rescuing Lost Voices by Naomi Skwarna.

A Revival of Ladino

4 March 2011

During the Diaspora, one of the places Jews settled in was Spain. Mixing their Hebrew tradition with Spanish, the Sephardi (Spanish) Jews developed the Ladino (lad) language or Judaeo-Spanish. When they were exiled from Spain in 1492, they spread out again, and Ladino incorporated elements of Turkish, Greek and other languages.

According to the Ethnologue, there are some 110,000 speakers, about 90 percent of which live in Israel, most of the rest residing in Turkey. Wikipedia notes that the language is endangered as many Jews who moved to Israel did not pass the language along.

Aviya Kushner gives a nice overview of Ladino in her article “Is the language of Sephardic Jews, undergoing a revival?” on the site My Jewish Learning. Among the many things she discusses is the production of plays in Ladino and class offerings in New York and elsewhere.

For music, check out Yasmin Levy. Daughter to the head of the Ladino department at Israel’s national radio station, she is well recognized for her talents and efforts in maintaining the rich Ladino culture.

This post was inspired by “Yasmin Levy: Keeping An Ancient Language Alive Through Song,” a post on the Radio Boston website.

Fictional Endangered Language in “Precious Little”

24 February 2011

Playing through Saturday at Cornell University in the US is a play whose story includes a character that is an elder of the fictional Kari language.

According to the review “Engaging ‘Precious Little’ has much to say” in the Ithaca Journal, the play “Precious Little” is on stage through Saturday at the Flex Stage at Cornell University’s Schwartz Center. It is written by Cornell alumna Madeleine George and directed by student Miles Kenyon Rowland.

Without others to talk to in her language, the Kari speaker is unable to communicate freely.

Written in 2009, “Precious Little” is scheduled to play in Pittsburgh at the City Theatre from March 12 to April 3, 2011, and concurrently at the Chicago DCA Theater from March 1 to April 2, 2011.