Gary Fife/Radio Communications
Wotko Long, a bearer of Mvskoke culture shares his talent in new stage play
Okmulgee, Oklahoma—Mvskoke cultural practitioner and actor, Wotko Long made quite a debut in 2015 in Mvskoke filmmaker Sterling Harjo’s film, “Mekko”.
Long is in the process of another entertainment appearance, this time in a stage play called “Between the Knees,” due to make its opening in April, 2019 in Ashland, Oregon. The full storyline and details have not been made available, Long said, but audiences will see the effects of the coming of the Christian religion on Native American people and culture.
In an interview with Mvskoke Radio January 30, 2019 Long talked about his new role and the changing presence of Native actors in more movies.
“It’s just funny that this came about. Sterling (Harjo) told me when I made that “Mekko,” he said, ‘They’re going to be calling you one of these days. I said, ‘ah’ and just forgot about it. Then he came up and confronted me with this. I almost turned it down. But you know, there was a quote that said, “It’s far better to live with the regrets of mistakes you have made, than to live with the regret of never having tried.”
The title had not been confirmed to Long, but he talked about a controversial work in progress, “Between the Knees is the coming of Christianity by the people coming over. The abuse, the pedophiles, but at the same time, it’s really written good to where we through in humor in there within the horror of what happened to us.”
“The main director, told me, “What do you think,” When I was getting ready to come back. “Well, I said, I think it’s going to be a big hit or they’re going to kill us. It’s to put everything in a perspective of what happened to us and the ugliness of all it, being forced into another religion. We had our own religion anyway, we believe in the Creator. It’s just a different way.”
In terms of a historical timeline, Long says the play will be examining relatively modern times.
“The story is about a young boy who was brought up in it. Another young girl comes up and they capture her, they take her from her parents. They break anyway together and do what young people do. They protest and they fight the other boys in schools. They even kill a priest. But, that was their young years, their rowdy years. I play the part of the elders of these two. It starts out in 1890 at the Wounded Knee and it ends up in 1973 at Wounded Knee.”
“The end is just a ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ thing.”
Assuming the role of this character, Long said, was a fairly easy task, “ It is. It’s funny how…this character here…I guess the maturity of my life…figuring out things, the real things, the truth about our people and what happened to us. I fell right into this character because I’ ve seen where the people were kind of whipped into shape and I guess that’s where I’ve always felt myself as a young man.”
“I used to think every time a white person said something, I believed it, even young kids. That’s just what we were brought up in. But, then this character is that way. His to-be wife is what changes him. He recognizes it and he tells her, ‘If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here. You’ve changed me, you made me see what was really happening.’ “
This production, Long said didn’t have any major disagreements between the director’s and an actor’s perspective on how a scene should take place, but Long noted, there were a couple of things.
“Sometimes, almost. But, I bit my tongue. It worked out. They themselves had changed because the 1491s (a Native comedy troupe) are the ones that he goes and questions about that and they ironed it out. But, I was. There was just something in there that I didn’t get.”
Even the common language usage, he said, presented the occasional problem, “Even the way they speak, ‘cause they’re non-Indian. I said, well, we don’t talk that way. You’re expressions are exaggerated too much. They would point at me and I would say, I’m not even acting, I’m just reading.“
Long even got into some dance sequences, a long way from the traditional dance he has known, “There’s even a song and dance in there, too. I never thought I’d be in anything like a chorus line, I said, Man, this is incredible. Pick me up and carry me across.”
The fact that this stage production will be live in front of an audience will be a new experience for him and he added it was intimidating.
Another part that Long said affected him was the opening sequence where he encounters the aftermath of the Wounded Knee massacre, something that, he remembers, came from his own wartime experiences.
That segment, he says, did provoke a reaction, “My character, we start the play out. We’re walking up on the massacre. “
“You what it did to me? We have a grandson in the play that goes to Vietnam. You know, when I was in Vietnam, out in the jungles and we come to the villages. Then it hit me, I was like the cavalry. The people made their villages out of bamboo and we’d end up burning them. I started seeing that and when we got into this play, I started seeing that.”
The production of “Between The Knees” opens in April of this year and runs into October. More information will be available at a later date.