Mary Kathryn Nagle

Mary Kathryn Nagle

Childhood stories of her great-great-great grandfather, John Ridge, speaker of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council and the first Native American attorney, (barred from practice because of his race), drove Mary Kathryn Nagle to law – and theatre. “To me, they are both forms of storytelling,” said Nagle, who splits time as a lawyer focused on the sovereignty of Native peoples and a playwright. She has argued before the Supreme Court – and written for American stages. She leads the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Group. Her play, “Sovereignty,” raises questions about who has jurisdiction when a native woman is sexually assaulted by an outsider. It was produced in 2018 at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. A new play about one of the nation’s first feminists, Sacajawea, “Crossing Mnisose,” opens this month at Portland Center Stage. Nagle, a member of the Cherokee Nation, argues off stage and on for richer understanding of Native peoples, particularly women. “Gender does have a significant role in all of this,” said Nagle, noting that native women face the highest rates of domestic violence of any group. Theatre is a way to share experiences that would otherwise go untold, said Nagle. “We still live in a world in which most of the plays are written by men.”

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