August 22, 2023

L&C’s First Native Scholar-Artist in Residence to Focus on Shakespeare

Waylon Lenk BA ’08, a Shakespeare scholar and theatre artist, will join the college as its first Native Scholar-Artist in Residence this fall. Lenk will give a talk at New Student Orientation and direct the theatre department’s fall production of Henry IV, Part 1.

Waylon Lenk, L&C's new Native scholar-artist in residence, is an active theatre professional. He's shown here in his on... Waylon Lenk, L&C's new Native scholar-artist in residence, is an active theatre professional. He's shown here in his one-man show, Something Spoken, Something Heard. This fall, Waylon Lenk BA ’08 will join the campus community as its inaugural Native Scholar-Artist in Residence. Lenk, who is Karuk from the villages of Ka’tim’îin and Taxasúfkara near the Oregon-California border, is a Shakespeare scholar and theatre artist. He will deliver a lecture at New Student Orientation on the topic of Native Shakespeare. He will also direct the theatre department’s fall main stage production of Henry IV, Part 1, translated by Algonquin playwright Yvette Nolan.

Lenk, who majored in theatre and German studies while a student at L&C, actively promotes the work of Native playwrights and is involved in research to extend the boundaries of what is considered “Native theatre.”

The Native Scholar-Artist in Residence initiative grew out of an institutional commitment to build relationships with Indigenous communities grounded in honesty, respect, and reparative action. This commitment was first articulated last year by President Robin Holmes-Sullivan in a message to the campus community on Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“We owe First Peoples a great debt of gratitude for the countless social, historical, cultural, technological, and industrial contributions they have made to our country and the world,” wrote Holmes-Sullivan. “We also owe them an open acknowledgment of the generational harm done to their communities when the U.S. government forcibly removed their ancestors from their traditional lands. Those who have benefited from the government’s actions have a further duty to examine that harm and look for ways to redress it.”

Conversations with Indigenous alumni led to the creation of the Native Scholar-Artist in Residence program, as well as the Presidential Native American Advisory Committee, tasked with advising Holmes-Sullivan on Native/Indigenous matters.

A desire to identify possible reparative actions inspired last year’s first Community Dialogue, which was developed by a committee of students, staff, and faculty to explore the meaning and significance of the name and history of Lewis & Clark.

Native Scholar-Artist in Residence Waylon Lenk Native Scholar-Artist in Residence Waylon Lenk“We are incredibly excited to welcome Dr. Lenk, the first scholar to engage with our community as part of this initiative,” said Bruce Suttmeier, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “His work exemplifies what has been the guiding vision for the initiative, which includes deep, reciprocal engagement with the natural and human histories that have unfolded here. These include the connections between place and community identities; the complex legacies of colonialism; and the different ways of being and knowing that have informed how humans have inhabited the lands upon which Lewis & Clark College sits.”

Lenk’s talk during New Student Orientation on August 31 is part of the Common Reading initiative for incoming students. The initiative is designed to provide students with a series of cocurricular events that introduce them to the L&C community and provide a shared set of thought-provoking academic experiences that continue throughout their first year. The focus for fall 2023 is “The Stories We Weave,” centering on Native artistic and scholarly traditions.

Also during orientation, incoming students will hear from local photographer Joe Cantrell, who is Cherokee and originally from Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Cantrell will lead an interactive land acknowledgment activity and present his photography, which interweaves art and science using microscopic lenses to reveal the hidden beauty within rocks and fossils.

In November, in conjunction with Lenk’s theatre department residency, the college will bring accomplished playwright Yvette Nolan to campus. She will give a talk about her translation of Henry IV, Part 1.

“I began working with Yvette on her translation of Henry IV, Part 1 eight years ago as her resident dramaturg, providing critical feedback on her drafts and research notes during our workshops,” said Lenk. “Although the play is set in medieval England and Wales, it has a lot to say about the destructive legacy of English imperialism here in North America. It’s a delight to be able to see Yvette’s work come to life and to direct her translation’s world premiere.”

In addition, the theatre department will welcome Madeline Sayet, executive director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program, to campus in the fall. Sayet is a member of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut, where she was raised on a combination of traditional Mohegan stories and Shakespeare.

“I want to thank Associate Professor of Art Jess Perlitz, Associate Professor of Theatre Rebecca Lingafelter, and Professor of Music Katherine FitzGibbon for their tireless work on and commitment to the Native Scholar-Artist in Residence initiative,” said Suttmeier. “It is their outreach to and engagement with tribal communities, and their dedication to providing students with enriching coursework and experiences, that has set the stage for this inaugural year’s success.”

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