Between Two Knees – Laughing Through History: The 1491s’ Bold Approach to Native American Storytelling

Between Two Knees – Laughing Through History: The 1491s’ Bold Approach to Native American Storytelling

The intertribal Native American sketch comedy troupe, The 1491s, is made up of five members Ryan Redcorn, Dallas Goldtooth, Sterlin Harjo, Migizi Pensoneau, and Bobby Wilson. These self-proclaimed YouTube comedians with little to no theater experience have somehow managed to produce a hilarious play about American history that has made its way across the country and is debuting in New York City this month.

The renowned comedy group has also created popular hits Reservation Dogs and Rutherford Falls and has been working tirelessly to create another humorous show. After months of brainstorming, it appears that they finally seem to have another hit on their hands. However, it wasn’t without struggle, as the group reminisced recently about the countless hours spent goofing off and trying to figure out what they would write next.

For years they had worked together to create a humorous show, coming up short every time. The idea of writing a play had never crossed their minds. That is, until recently when they turned their focus to the struggles of their own people, in part inspired by recent uprisings as a result of the George Floyd murder in 2020. Their lack of playwriting experience ultimately proved advantageous. In addition, the timing of this show is key, with the recent racial reckoning of 2020, Native voices have a newfound opportunity to be seen and are ready to be heard.

Between Two Knees is a play focused on the love and loss of a family as they struggle through the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, forced re-education at Indian boarding schools, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam and the American Indian Movement occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973. The knees in question are the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 and the American Indian Movement’s takeover of Wounded Knee in 1973. The story and much of the humor exist between these two knees. The focus is a moment in time and an awakening for a Native American family as they face surmounting struggles. The play takes a hard look at the effects of systemic oppression that is often overlooked.

The 1491s, known for their uninhibited comedy, teamed up with Director Eric Ting to bring this story to life. The beauty of this collaboration is that it addresses Native American themes through humor, which is a bit of a rarity. Though humor-infused, the topics it tackles are real; like the effects of systemic oppression not often taught in schools when it comes to Native American history.

The group feels strongly about creating a meaningful Native American comedy, as most plays, movies, and TV shows featuring Indigenous characters miss the mark when it comes to humor. “Our show has love and laughter, where most stories of Indigenous people are just about death, mourning, and lamentation.”, Redcorn shared.

Between Two Knees will run from February 4th through 24th at Perelman Performing Arts Center (PAC) NYC. This follows their acclaimed runs at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Yale Repertory Theatre, McCarter Theater, and Seattle Rep.

About Paul G

Paul G is the founder PowWows.com, who wears many hats as a business coach, photographer, and collector of quirky shirts. Paul started PowWows.com in 1996 while pursuing his graduate degree. With a passion for travel, he and his family hav  traveled the world, capturing unforgettable memories and photos. When he's not coaching or clicking, he's indulging in the magic of Disney.


2 Comments on “Between Two Knees – Laughing Through History: The 1491s’ Bold Approach to Native American Storytelling”

  • Avatar for lorre mendelson

    lorre mendelson

    says:

    Is it virtual and audio described?

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G

      says:

      It is an in person performance in New York.

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