Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2016

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 08/31/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Brown, Matthew P.

First Committee Member

Bolton, Linda

Second Committee Member

Diffley, Kathleen

Third Committee Member

Marra, Kim

Fourth Committee Member

Round, Phillip


Far from vanishing as romantically predicted, Native being remains present despite centuries’ efforts of erasure. Far from empty space or a blank page, the state of Oklahoma has always been and continues to be a site of transcultural negotiations. Native playwrights unghost—make visible—those shimmering glimmers when they re-present historical events. Centering the work of Native playwrights from Oklahoma-as-Indian-Territory, I in turn unghost—recover—the connections between historical crises dramatized by Native poets and playwrights and reenacted by historical interpreters in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with nineteenth century archives and circulations. I elucidate a new genealogy of Oklahoma-as-Indian-Territory, where borders bend in genre, time, and space. The Native plays here share a time-weaving relationship to earlier historical crises, a resistance to false closure, a recycling of time-worn stereotypes in the service of their undoing. Unghosting Native playwrights can mean reviving those who have fallen out of print, as with Red Renaissance prodigy Hanay Geiogamah, and reclaiming those whose Native identity has been erased, as with Lynn Riggs, whose Green Grow the Lilacs became the largely unsung foundation of the musical Oklahoma!, as well as expanding the dramatic archive to capture plays only found online.

My first chapter, “Staking Claims on Mixed-Blood Inheritance,” draws upon performance theorists Diana Taylor and Rebecca Schneider’s work in transcultural written and bodily archives to investigate two key repeated performances: the statehood mock wedding and the Land Run reenactments recently discontinued by the Oklahoma City Public Schools but still celebrated annually by schoolchildren across the state. Juxtaposing them with commemorative poetic performances by Diane Glancy, N. Scott Momaday, Joy Harjo, and LeAnne Howe, I situate these performances not as quirky local fun but as rituals of systemic colonial representational power. My second chapter, “Active States,” unghosts folk drama through Lynn Riggs’ pre-statehood play Green Grow the Lilacs and the collaboratively revised Trail of Tears outdoor spectacle produced for decades by the Cherokee Nation, including the extended material performances of these texts in playbills, a songbook, and a fine press illustrated edition. My third chapter, “Kitchen Table Worlds in Motion: Collaborations in Native New Play Development” examines four recent plays and the development institutions that support them, all breaking new ground in form yet recycling images and adapting texts and experiences from many archives: Hanay Geiogamah’s Foghorn, LeAnne Howe’s The Mascot Opera: A Minuet, Diane Glancy’s Pushing the Bear, and Joy Harjo’s Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light. My fourth and final chapter continues the exploration of recent work, yet on specific policy issues: the stolen bodies of residential schools and of looted funerary remains, and the ongoing repercussions of these instances of cultural genocide in courts and heritage sites today, as dramatized by Mary Kathryn Nagle and Suzan Shown Harjo in My Father’s Bones, Annette Arkeketa in Ghost Dance, and N. Scott Momaday’s in The Moon in Two Windows.


book history, digital humanities, drama, performance studies, poetry


ix, 233 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 224-233).


Copyright © 2016 Jennifer E. Shook

Available for download on Monday, August 31, 2020