DELANNA’S AUDACIOUS IDEA
BY COREY MADDEN, DIRECTOR
As a creative producer and director of new plays for 30 years, I often ask artists about what fascinates or irritates or activates them. These informal pitch sessions (often conducted over a meal) are how folks in the creative professions conduct business, but it’s rare that a 900-mile, five-year journey begins because of a single conversation.
“What is your dream project?” I asked DeLanna Studi casually one night at dinner following rehearsals for a play I directed and co-wrote in 2013. Without hesitation she declared “I want to walk the Trail of Tears with my father and make a play about it.” The audacity of DeLanna’s answer impressed me, but I had no idea how to respond at the time. “Well good luck with that,” was the best I could manage that night.
While I wasn’t certain whether I could help make DeLanna’s dream a reality, I never forgot her powerful vision. As fate would have it, six months later I moved to North Carolina to lead the Kenan Institute for the Arts at University of North Carolina School of the Arts. In my new role and new home, I had my own moment of creative reckoning: What was my dream project? Not long after, I invited DeLanna to visit Cherokee, North Carolina, home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. What DeLanna learned that day about her family’s history inspired both of us for the next five years.
Since 2013, the audacious idea that came to be known as And So We Walked: An Artist’s Journey Along the Trail of Tears has received generous support from many individuals and tribal organizations, as well as renowned theatres, museums, universities, and philanthropies. We are deeply grateful to each person who was brave enough to say “yes” and help the project move forward on its path. In particular I want to give thanks to two men—DeLanna’s father, Thomas Studie, and my late husband, Bruno Louchouarn—for their unstinting belief in their warrior women.
The rest of this story is DeLanna’s to tell, but I am forever grateful to her for sharing her dream and inviting me to collaborate with her on this remarkable dramatic story.
Tickets to And So We Walked: An Artist's Journey Along the Trail of Tears are available now by clicking here or calling the Ticket Office at 317.635.5252.
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