March 2018

Cutting-edge native cuisine: A special dinner event at Gilcrease Museum

Join us for a special multi-course meal at Gilcrease Museum on Friday, April 13, prepared by two of the country’s most innovative Native American chefs. In 2008, Matt Chandra and Ben Jacobs co-founded Tocabe, a Denver, Colorado-based restaurant that draws on Osage tradition, family recipes and locally sourced ingredients. Their creations have appeared in Food and Wine and The Atlantic – and Tocabe was featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Chandra and Jacobs will prepare an exciting group of dishes that match their creative techniques to indigenous American foods and traditions. As each course is served, the chefs will talk briefly about the plate’s origins, ingredients and cultural resonance. “On this continent,” Jacobs said, “we have the oldest culture, but the youngest cuisine.” This unique dining experience will offer an opportunity to learn more about this mingling of tradition and innovation while experiencing cutting-edge Native American cuisine.

Tickets for this multi-course dinner and wine experience are $80 and can be purchased through Gilcrease via phone at 918-596-2771 or email at jer8824@utulsa.edu. Dinner is at 7 p.m.

This dinner is part of a special two-day symposium at Gilcrease Museum that will draw together native chefs, filmmakers, food historians, healthcare experts and activists to explore the cultural and health effects of indigenous cuisines.

For more information about the Native American Cuisines Symposium, visit our page.

For updates and notices, follow the event page on Facebook.

To watch a promotional video and learn more about the inspiration behind the event, click here!

 

 

Homelands through a Different Lens: Oklahoma! In Concert

Director Machele Miller Dill talks about the profound experience of directing an all-African American cast in Rodger’s & Hammerstein’s classic American musical Oklahoma! Join us for this unique production on March 30th and 31st at Gilcrease Museum. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Advance tickets are $6.50 through Eventbrite. Cash only at the door.

Oklahoma! in Concert is my third all African American cast production for Rebecca Ungerman’s Big/Little Musicals series. When beginning these projects, I always start the same way: with everyone around a table – or several tables pushed together as was the case with this cast. And I always start with the same statement. You see, I am white, pale, freckled, green-eyed, red-haired and about as WASPy as one can be. As I look around at a see of faces that are outwardly different than mine, I know from years of experience that my job is to find the places where we are the same, use them as a foundation, then step back and empower the cast to tell their own unique story. I tell the cast, “it is not my job to tell you what your experience. I can’t. I have no idea what it’s like to be black in America. And it’s stupid to try to say that I can imagine what it’s like. Because I can’t. What I do know, however, is how to bring in a show. I can get us to opening night and guarantee we’ll have a great show and a great time getting there.” It never fails: everyone around the table relaxes, then we begin the business of piecing together a theatre family.

Oklahoma! in Concert was chosen based on the OCH theme of Homelands and the historic all-black towns that once thrived, and still, to some extent, survive here in the state. The discussion with the cast about an all-black Oklahoma! turned to excitement. Everyone needs their own space. Their own place to belong. Where is your beginning? Where is your start? For most of us, it meant a place where you can grow while surrounded by people who are like you. Home is what you make it, and it’s what makes you.

What I’ve heard over and over during this entire rehearsal process is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play these characters. Most of these actors will never get the chance to plays these roles again. And why is that? Because they’re black? I can only assume that’s the reasoning though that honestly doesn’t make any sense since this company of actors is insanely talented. However, it’s true that a character like Laurey is almost always cast as a fragile blonde, though the Royal National Company’s version with Hugh Jackman cast a brunette Laurey and put her in overalls like a real farmgirl. (You can’t slop hogs in a dress – and yes, I do know that for a fact.)

I once asked an African American actress in another show I directed why I never saw her in one of the many other musicals around town – I mean this young woman was phenomenal. What she told me broke my heart and has informed how I approach theatre and social justice to this very day. She said, “I’m tired of playing the maid.” Is there really no room for color-blind casting? Aren’t theatre people inherently creative, and don’t we learn to problem-solve fairly early on when we go into theatre? Why can’t we collaborate with Theatre North on more projects or with the Latino Theatre group to provide more opportunities for persons of color to tell their stories? Why do we underestimate our audiences and think they won’t believe a mixed family? Come on! Look at the success of Hamilton! Personally, I believe that audiences are ready for a 49-year-old, overweight, female George Washington (that’s me in case you didn’t know – I know ALL his songs by heart, people) but more importantly, it’s time that theatre became a home for persons of color the way it’s been a home for all sorts of disenfranchised people for hundreds of years. And the only way that will happen is if I, and all those like me, move over from behind the table and make room.

I had this very conversation with one of our cast. She’s been in all three Big/Little Musicals and she’s taken on more responsibility on each time. I was working up to mentioning to her that she could train for directing on the next one, and she beat me to it. She asked – demanded really in the best possible way – and of course I said yes. Yes, let’s work out a plan. Yes, let’s get you some training. Yes, there’s a place at the table for you. And to quote Hamilton, I want to be in the room where it happens, but I don’t need to be in charge. I just want to be part of the team, a member of the family. Because that what we are. A theatre family. Yes – welcome home, Kaicee. Here’s your seat at the table. Welcome home, because theatre is your home as it’s been mine.

Get your tickets on Eventbrite.

 

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, NC State will honor requests for reasonable accommodations made by individuals with disabilities. Requests can be served more effectively if notice is provided at least 10 days before the event. Direct accommodation requests to tara-aveilhe@utulsa.edu.

Tulsa’s Inaugural Home Movie Fest: Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us

On April 5th, the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities and Circle Cinema will host Tulsa’s first Home Movie Festival in conjunction with this year’s theme of “Homelands.” We are excited to showcase a wide range of fascinating films from Tulsa and beyond.

We began organizing this festival around a simple question: what is the place of the home movie? Rarely taken seriously, the home movie is layered with cultural and personal significance. Does it preserve memories? Commemorate special moments? Provide sobering reminders of our previous fashion choices? Collect dust in the attic? Perhaps all of the above, and more.

Home movies have been with us for quite some time. It wasn’t too long after the 1890s birth of cinema that it became possible for ordinary people to record their lives on film, although it remained expensive and difficult (and sometimes explosive). It was the introduction of 16mm film cameras, film, and projectors in the 1920s that ultimately popularized home movies, making them affordable for those beyond the Hollywood set.

Home movies spurred broad cultural interest, spawning national societies like the “Amateur Cinema League” and journals like Amateur Movie Makers (titled simply Movie Makers after its first issue).[i] These new platforms allowed those in and outside Hollywood to talk about making amateur films, to discuss what such movies could mean—and what functions they could serve—outside the world of commercial cinema. Many of these conversations endure.

In 1926, for example, Myrtle Gebhard published an article in Amateur Movie Makers warning parents about the risks they were taking with home movies: “I believe the idea, over which Hollywood’s parents are so enthusiastic now,” she wrote, “isn’t going to prove a great hit when the baby actors are grown up and these childhood celluloids are flashed on the screen.”[ii] One example of Hollywood children subject to later mortification that Gebhard included was a young Will Rogers, Jr. Clad in cowboy regalia, Rogers conducts a “home movie hold-up” of Hollywood director William Seiter alongside his partner in crime: William’s son, John.

We will likely never know if Rogers was later embarrassed by this film, but we can see here hints of larger conversations about the boundaries and costs of recording one’s children familiar to us today. Though the technologies behind home movies have by now moved past celluloid; discussions surrounding their significance remain as fervent as ever.

We believe there are enduring lessons that we can take away from home movies. As windows into people’s lives, into cultural/historical moments, into places familiar in some ways and perhaps not in others, home movies constitute opportunities to reflect on that which is familiar and gain perspective on that which is not. The motto of Amateur Movie Makers, “Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us,” expressed this dynamic of self and other, of similarity and difference, so nicely nearly a century ago.

This dynamic is alive and well at the Home Movie Festival. We will glimpse Tulsan family outings as well as family vacations bringing visitors to Tulsa. We will revisit the city’s neon signage of the 1970s. We will experience the 1932 opening of The University of Tulsa’s Chapman Stadium and re-live key moments in school history with TU Presidents Swearingen and Henneke. We will see how mid-20th century Oklahoma imagined and represented itself to those outside the state. Together, these and additional films we plan to screen will showcase a sample of the fascinating world of home movies that are in many ways both familiar and new.

Please join us April 5th at Circle Cinema for this fantastic event! The Home Movie Festival begins at 6:30 and will run for approximately two hours. Admission is Free. To learn more, visit our event page on Facebook or the Circle Cinema website.

By Justin Rawlins, Assistant Professor of Media Studies and Film Studies at The University of Tulsa.

[i] Alan D. Kattelle, “The Amateur Cinema League and its films.” Film History 15 (2003): 238-251.

[ii] Myrtle Gebhart, “Hollywood Films Its Children.” Amateur Movie Makers 1.1 (Dec 1926): 27.

Research Seminar on Memory: Call for Public Fellows Applications

Memory is the most powerful yet fragile of human faculties. Around its mysteries, we weave our deepest sense of self and community, making it, as Cicero wrote, the “treasury and guardian of all things.” We fill our private spaces and public squares with its icons: photographs and monuments, locks of hair and historical markers, dried flowers and weed-wracked cemeteries. We know, however, that memory can be flawed, that it’s fashioned not just by fact, but by trauma and triumph, by emotion and prejudice, and most often, by the need to fashion a compelling story about ourselves. Salman Rushdie describes it as a “way of telling you what’s important to you,” or what Oscar Wilde calls “the diary that we all carry about with us.”

Like all human things, memory is full of contradictions that bedevil and beguile us. We fear losing our memory, and yet forgetting can be a strange virtue—a relief from the sometimes irresolvable conflicts of the past. Still, we work hard to recover that which has been forgotten. Truth and reconciliation committees both here in Tulsa and around the world have sought to preserve the memory of trauma, even while attempting to constrain the damage it might do. “Never forget,” we intone, though Rita Mae Brown has argued that “one of the keys to happiness is a bad memory.” How do we strike this balance between remembering and forgetting? What happens when memories fail to align with one another or when they’re built around acts of violence? What do we owe to the past—and what does it owe to us? What role do monuments and other kinds of commemoration play in the creation and dislocation of community? How has technology changed our understanding of memory and what happens when memory appears to fail, either as a consequence of age or disease or when confronted by some stubborn fact that contradicts it? These are just some of the questions the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities will attempt to address throughout the 2018-19 academic year by focusing on the theme of memory.

In order to support this work, the OCH invites public applications to the Interdisciplinary Humanities Seminar focused on the topic of Memory. The seminar will convene once a week through the fall 2018 semester and will build on the expertise of each participant to launch an intensive investigation of memory, assisted by visiting speakers, artists, and performers. In the spring, participants will share their work with the larger community through talks, performances, colloquia, and other events. The Center welcomes a broad interpretation of the theme that will carry our investigations across intellectual, political, experimental, and artistic domains. Anyone interested in the topic is welcome to apply. For more information visit www.humanities.utulsa.edu.

Application for the 2018-2019 Humanities Research Seminar

Description: The Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Seminar sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities at the University of Tulsa is intended to promote engaged, intellectual discussion on topics of current public and intellectual interest. Every year, a group of approximately eight Research Fellows will be chosen to collaborate on a series of weekly seminar discussions. It is hoped that these discussions will then lead into further projects, undertaken collectively or individually. These might include digital projects, performances, creative works, or activities designed to spur civic action and service. The admissions committee will judge applications based on an assessment of the proposal’s interdisciplinary appeal and its potential for sparking dialogue.

Eligibility: Anyone whose public, private, or professional interests would benefit from involvement in the seminar is eligible to apply. Finalists will be asked to participate in a short interview with a member of the Center’s staff. Fellows will be eligible to receive a small stipend to defray any direct costs associated with their participation.

Requirements: The seminar will convene for three hours each week at the University of Tulsa from August 26st to December 6th, 2018. Fellows are expected to participate in all seminar sessions and to present some aspect of their work at an appropriate public forum in the spring of 2019.

Theme: The theme for the 2018-2019 seminar will be Memory. You are encouraged to interpret this topic broadly and in ways that are appropriate to your own fields of interest or expertise.

Application: Applications for participation in the seminar should include the following:

  • A resume or CV, including contact information,
  • A brief letter of reference,
  • Full responses to the three application questions listed below.

Applications should be sent by electronic attachment to: humanities@utulsa.edu

APPLICATION DEADLINE: May 1, 2018

Please direct any questions to Sean Latham (sean-latham@utulsa.edu//x2857)

Application Questions (no more than 1,500 words total):

  1. Why does the topic of memory interest you and how does it connect your civic, professional, intellectual, personal, or artistic interests?
  2. How would participation in this seminar contribute to your own work or interests? What kind of project do see coming out of your participation in the seminar?
  3. What are some of the key works (books, images, performances, films, articles, etc.) that you believe raise important issues in regard to memory. Please simply list 10-12 items.

Oklahoma: Home to More Historically All-Black Towns than Any Other U.S. State

Image from a pictorial exhibit of 25 colorized early 1900 to 1940s images of Boley, the largest of the All-Black towns, also known as “the crown jewel” (organized by the Coltrane Group).

 

When we think of Oklahoma history, we tend to think of the Sooners, the oil boom, or the birth of western swing music. But one unique feature of the state is its large number of historical all- black towns. In fact, as early as the mid-nineteenth century and through the turn of the twentieth-century, African Americans settled over 20 towns throughout Oklahoma–more than any other U.S. state. Although many of these towns no longer exist, their legacy remains an important part of the African American struggle for freedom, independence, and prosperity.

The settlement of Oklahoma’s all-black towns is inextricably tied to the Trail of Tears, the forced removal of Native American tribes from the southeastern part of the country to Indian Territory. Many African-Americans who were held as slaves by the tribes made the journey to Indian Territory, as well.

All-Black towns grew in Indian Territory after the Civil War when the former slaves of the Five Civilized Tribes settled together for mutual protection and economic security. These former slaves, or “Freedmen,” founded farming communities that supported a variety of businesses. Between 1865 and 1920, African-Americans created more than 50 all-black towns and settlements throughout Indian Territory.

The Land Run of 1889 brought even more African American settlers to the unassigned lands that now make up the state of Oklahoma. Newspapers began sprouting up in the new communities, and the towns were advertised throughout the southern United States as “promise lands” for black settlers.

Black Towns Map. (Tulsa Historical Society).

 

For several decades, these all-black towns provided their residents with lives free of the regular racial brutality and prejudice often experienced by blacks living in racially-mixed communities. Residents could depend on and support each other. Black-owned farms, schools, and businesses took root.

Unfortunately, shortly after statehood in 1907, the Oklahoma State legislature passed a series of statutes that would come to be known as Jim Crow laws, essentially enforcing racial segregation and, in some cases, inciting racial violence. Many African Americans became disheartened by this turn of events, and large numbers migrated to the west, as well as to Canada and Mexico.

The Great Depression also took a toll on the all-black farming towns, forcing many residents to find work elsewhere. As people left, taxes dwindled, putting the towns in financial jeopardy. Throughout the 1930s many railroads failed, isolating a number of rural towns in Oklahoma and cutting them off from their market. As a result, many of the black towns simply could not survive. Today, only thirteen all-black towns still exist, but their importance in Oklahoma’s history remains.

By Tara Aveilhe | Administrator for the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities & TU Institute for Bob Dylan Studies

 

Presented as part of a year-long exploration of the theme of Homelands, the Center’s production of Oklahoma! In Concert will offer a unique perspective on the state’s complicated racial history and the thriving black communities that have too often been written out of our history and popular culture. Featuring an all-black cast with minimal stage production, our presentation of this classic Roger’s and Hammerstein musical will offer a fresh look at this tale of love in the Heartland. The show will be produced by Rebecca Ungerman and directed by Machele Miller Dill. Stay updated on our Facebook event page!

8:00 pm | March 30 & 31, 2018 | Gilcrease Museum, 1400 N. Gilcrease Museum Rd., Tulsa

Tickets available through Eventbrite | $6.50

Sources:

Johnson, Hannibal B. “The All-Black Towns in Oklahoma.” The All-Black Towns in Oklahoma, 31 Dec. 2004, www.hannibalbjohnson.com/the-all-black-towns-in-oklahoma/.

O’Dell, Larry. “ALL-BLACK TOWNS.” All-Black Towns | The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, 2009, www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=AL009.