Kenan Institute for the Arts announces Native American Theatre Project in Cherokee, N.C.

The Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) and the Cherokee Historical Association will launch the Native American Theatre Project, a three-week “creative co-laboratory” in Cherokee, North Carolina, beginning on July 18.

As part of the Project, Cherokee artist DeLanna Studi and visiting faculty will host a storytelling workshop on Saturday, July 23, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, 589 Tsali Boulevard. The workshop is free and open to the public, and is designed to introduce community members to creative processes to help contemporary Cherokee people to tell their own stories. 

Studi will also hold a public reading of selected excerpts from her upcoming play, And So We Walked: An Artist’s Journey Along the Trail of Tears, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, at the Museum. The reading is free and open to the public, though seating is limited. A discussion and reception will follow.

The play, which is currently in production, is a dramatic retelling of Studi's six-week journey to retrace the path her great-great-grandparents took during the forced relocation of more than 16,000 Cherokee from their homelands in the 1830s. As many as 6,000 people perished along the Trail of Tears during that time.

Accompanied by a documentarian and her father, Thomas, a full-blooded Cherokee, Studi undertook the journey in the summer of 2015, partnering with dozens of community organizations and hosting workshops and storytelling circles at significant sites along the trail to explore the impact of the Cherokee removal on the people and their communities.

Corey Madden, executive director of the Kenan Institute for the Arts as well as an award-winning writer and director with 25 years of experience in new play development, is directing and producing the play.

Triad Stage will feature the North Carolina premiere of And So We Walked in April 2017.

The Native American Theatre Project, which is sponsored in part by the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, is a professional and creative development intensive that will bring performers, artists and leaders of two of the country's most important Native American theaters, North Carolina’s renowned outdoor drama Unto These Hills and Native Voices at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. In addition, the project will help towards enhancing the artistry of the production of Unto These Hills.

Madden believes the creative partnership with the Cherokee Historical Association, which seeks to facilitate opportunities for Cherokee artists to improve their skills so they can improve their quality of life, will increase the visibility of the Institute and UNCSA across North Carolina and the United States and places the groups at the forefront of diversity and inclusion work in the arts and arts education.

Madden said the creative co-laboratory is a way to give back to the Cherokee people who helped Studi and her team conduct research for And So We Walked.

“A potter can sell a pot all year long. An actor in that community only has a summer season. In the winter, everyone is out of work,” Madden said. “If you could change the circumstances so the actors in Cherokee could be in TV shows or movies or theater projects in the Southeast, that could make a real difference for them.”

The Kenan Institute for the Arts is a creative catalyst that encourages and supports the exploration and development of new knowledge to transform the way artists, organizations and communities approach their creative challenges. And So We Walked and the Native American Theatre Project are part of the Institute’s Arts and Society Initiative, which is dedicated to demonstrating the value and impact of the arts in society. For more information, visit

About Unto These Hills and the Oconaluftee Indian Village
Debuting in 1950, Unto These Hills has been performed for more than six million visitors in its 60+ years of operation.  From the first contact with Europeans to the infamous and tragic Trail of Tears, Unto These Hills tells the triumphant story of the Cherokee through the eons.

The Oconaluftee Indian Village is more than just a place. It is also a time: Ancient Cherokee, transporting you back to a living, working Cherokee Village of the 18th Century. Here, centuries old techniques for survival have been passed down from generation to generation and preserved in this living history site.

For more information about Unto These Hills and the Oconaluftee Indian Village, please visit

July 8, 2016