Philip blue owl Hooser, as told to Kansas City:
“I’m a Native American actor, writer, playwright and poet. I have had a one-person show about the life of poet Dorothy Parker produced across the country. I also wrote a one-woman show commissioned by the Unicorn. Coyote Mischief Tales is another one of my plays, originally commissioned by The Coterie, which has been performed in many places, including at the children’s theater at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
“I was approached by KC MOlière, which is putting together a big series of events to mark his four-hundredth birthday next year, specifically by professor Felicia Londré. She wanted there to be some sort of play that could potentially tour to schools that would encompass both the founding of Kansas City and the greatest French playwright, Molière, in some way.
“I proposed: What if fur traders François Chouteau and his family tried to show Osage and the other native Americans in the area that they could provide some sort of cultural benefit by doing things like theater? Theater, as we know it, doesn’t really exist in Native American tradition. There is storytelling, and there are dance rituals that sometimes have a storytelling component.
“In my story, the Native Americans are faced with a decision: Do we allow these fur traders to maintain an outpost here in what would eventually be Kansas City? The French fur traders, the Chouteau family, decide that they are going to present a Molière play. It’s a comedy, and everybody laughs. Why not do one of the funniest playwrights to ever live? Unfortunately, they didn’t decide exactly which Molière they were going to do beforehand, so each one of them comes in doing a different play, and that creates its own farcical situation. It becomes, OK, there’s a misunderstanding and they have to find a way to solve it. Spoiler alert: They do! It’s a comedy.
“Through wonderful synchronicity, at the same time this project landed in my lap, the universe also presented me with a book about fur trading. This is working out really well—thanks universe! But I had to do a lot of imagining about the specifics at the Chouteau’s Landing trading post. There were some real characters I had to use fictionally—the first character we see is the Osage, Standing Bear. He translates between the French and the Native Americans which is a challenge because, for example, they didn’t have a word for ‘miser.’ They didn’t have a word that meant greed.
“The lesson, I guess, is that if we work on what we have in common and work for each other, things can be better. Critical race theory exists because we’ve ignored it for so long. The Chouteau family approaches the issue the way I think we all can: There are benefits to our being here, there may be drawbacks to us being here, but we’re all in this together, and we will find a way to work together, to live together, to share our laughter, to share our sorrow, so we can all get through this.”
GO: Tartuffenthrope! will premiere at the Missouri Bicentennial celebration on June 24 at the François Chouteau & Native American Heritage Fountain. 3904 N.E. Chouteau Trafficway, KCMO. 11 am. Free.