Get to Know Playwright Larissa FastHorse

Get to Know Playwright Larissa FastHorse

Larissa FastHorse, of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, is an award-winning writer, co-founder of Indigenous Direction, and a recent 2020 MacArthur Genius Grant recipient.  

WAM audiences will have a chance to hear Larissa FastHorse talk about her playwriting and ask her questions in a free online conversation on Tuesday, November 10th at 7 pm EST that WAM is co-hosting with UMass Fine Arts Center and the UMass Amherst Department of Theater.  Sign up here

In the meantime, here are some notes and quotes from our recent conversations with her:

  • Larissa started her career as a classically trained ballet dancer and choreographer, working professionally with George Balanchine.  Larissa describes being influenced by Balanchine’s way of collaborating with individual dancers in his moment to moment work, and cites this as a reason that her plays are collaboratively created and very movement-based. In fact, she jokes that she thinks of plays as “dances with furniture”.
  • Now based in Southern California, Larissa started her writing career by writing scripts for television and film.  She has written scripts for Universal Pictures and produced two short films The Migration and A Final Wish. Larissa was a delegate in 2000 to the United Nations in Geneva, where she spoke on the power film can have for indigenous peoples.
  • Larissa’s first play, American Family, about an urban Native American family and a rural white family on a TV reality show set in the 1840s, was a work for young audiences commissioned by Children’s Theatre Center of Minneapolis.  She describes finding theatre as feeling like: “I was home”  
  • The Thanksgiving Play was one of the top ten most produced plays in America this last season, making Larissa the first Native American playwright on that list in America Theatre history.  
  • Larissa is a self-proclaimed “neuroscience nerd”  who has spent time studying human neural pathways.  She uses this knowledge in her writing to undermine people’s expectations:  “everything I do in theatre is about the audience, and trying to change the way people think.”  Watch her in conversation with Neurobiologist Professor Erich Jarvis here
  • In recent years Larissa has created a trilogy of community engaged plays with Cornerstone Theatre Company, including Urban Rez and Native Nation, the largest indigenous production in the history of American theatre with over 400 native artists.  Her current project, The D/N/Lakota Project is  a community generated and performed immersive theatrical experience created through radical engagement with the Lakota communities in Larissa’s homelands of South Dakota. 

WAM’s digital production of The Thanksgiving Play will be available online November 19-22.  Tickets on sale now!