The Nebraska Dispatches  Christopher Cartmill, successful New York playwright, director, and actor, disregarded Thomas Wolfe’s famous advice that “You can’t go home again,” and returned to his home in Nebraska to research and write a play. His subject was Chief Standing Bear, a Ponca Indian who in 1879 sued the United States government and won. The turmoil that enveloped Cartmill and renewed his bond with home, in the broadest meaning of that word, is gracefully retold in The Nebraska Dispatches.  Standing Bear was chief of the Ponca Indians living along the Niobrara River in Northern Nebraska in the mid 1800s, when the US government moved many of the Indian tribes to the Oklahoma territory. Standing Bear’s son died in Oklahoma, having first requested burial in Nebraska with his ancestors. To honor his son’s request, Standing Bear returned to Nebraska, where he was arrested and incarcerated. He declared he was being held illegally, and sued the US government for a writ of habeas corpus. The Court agreed with the chief and he was freed to quietly live out his life in Nebraska.  The Nebraska Dispatches is far more than just the story of Standing Bear, although that alone would make for an interesting tale. Cartmill also tells his own story, of his return to his roots and reconciliation with place and history. The story’s pace and drama builds as Cartmill meets the people of Nebraska and hears their stories.  Flowing throughout is the undercurrent of anger and bitterness that irresolutely defines the relationship between the Plains Indians and their white neighbors. Cartmill is forced to confront the idea that stories matter. History is not abstract, but about actual people and events that have consequences yet today. As Susan Cloud Horse, an Omaha Indian, tells him: “First of all, I’m going to tell you this again: by what you’re doing you’re stirring up five hundred years of anger, pain, and shame.”  The Nebraska Dispatches refrains from bravado or overstatement; nevertheless, it is an intense and dynamic book. Cartmill is expert at relating his own story and just enough information about the Poncas, Standing Bear, and other Plains Indians. He intertwines these sagas to make them part of a larger story of America and how Americans connect to home. In the end, Cartmill proves Wolfe wrong. Not only can one go home again, but there can be much to be learned from the experience. (November) John Michael Senger ” - John Michael Senger

— ForeWord Reviews

The Nebraska Dispatches" by Christopher Cartmill, University of Nebraska Press, 143 pages, $10.95  Christopher Cartmill will tell you that a story is a deeply personal thing, and a story about home only intensifies the sense of ownership and connection. In 2006, the Lied Center for Performing Arts commissioned Cartmill to return to his hometown and write a play about Chief Standing Bear, a Ponca Native who was forced from his home in Nebraska and then fought for the right to return to it. Writing Standing Bear's story became Cartmill's personal odyssey. The Nebraska Dispatches" was compiled from a series of e-mails Cartmill wrote to friends and family as he worked on the Standing Bear play. "Dispatches" originally was presented as a solo performance by Cartmill but has now been compiled into a book that reads like a journal. In writing about Standing Bear, Cartmill discovered that everyone's piece of a story comes with personal history, priorities and prejudice. "Dispatches" reveals Cartmill's struggle to write someone else's story when not everyone agrees on how or whether the story should be told. Cartmill entwines his own story with Standing Bear's and with the stories of the people who are living out Standing Bear's epilogue. "Dispatches" is about cause and effect and the ripples those have on everyone's story. "Are we living in the ripples of events of so long ago?" Cartmill asks. "Or are we the ripples? When you finish reading Lincoln's One Book 2010 selection, "I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear's Journey for Justice " by Joe Starita, and want more of the story, pick up "The Nebraska Dispatches." The ripples will affect you.” - Cindy Conger

— Lincoln Journal Star

“The Spectre Bridegroom” at Everett High School Tonight I had the pleasure of attending Everett High School’s spring play, 'The Spectre Bridegroom', in the school’s “Little Theater”, and was treated to a very entertaining and nearly flawless theatrical presentation.  On the surface, I wasn’t sure that a play about possibly-ghostly groomsmen in a Bavarian castle in 1895 sounded like my cup of tea; however, I was very pleasantly surprised at the story, the fantastic script, and the superb acting and staging of this delightful comedy of errors. I can hardly begin to describe the story, as it simply must be seen in person to be fully grasped.  Its one of these very clever scripts where everything is not as it seems.  While the audience can easily follow what is really happening, the characters in the story most certainly cannot, and in many ways, this reminded me of a Shakespeare story.  Louisa, the daughter of a once-wealthy family is due to be married to a groom she has never met, as arranged by their parents and against her own wishes.  The groom-to-be himself, the Count Von Altenburg is, well, quite a handful.  He and his servant Osmar arrive in Louisa’s town and run into an old friend, the handsome and rebellious Hermann Von Starkenfaust. The three young men have no idea that a bizarre course of events lies in front of them, or how all their plans will go wrong at just about every turn, causing tremendous confusion and commotion at the castle of Louisa’s family.  They also have no idea that Louisa’s family includes some very colorful and amusing characters too, and it all makes for a great play. ......'The Spectre Bridegroom' was definitely worth seeing, and I encourage anyone who enjoys plays to go and see this excellent production!"  ” - Darren Oke

Northwest Theatre News

READING HAS IMPACT With his drama "Home Land," playwright Christopher Cartmill has crafted a latticework made up of initially seemingly disparate words and times, memories and histories. But the writer's theatrical fabric is a tapestry of interconnectedness that weaves a binding melange of emotions and awareness. While the play, currently being performed in the round in the Lied Center's Johnny Carson Theatre, is a staged reading, not a full production, there is still plenty of dramatic impact. Cartmill's play searches for that elusive recognition of what is home to an individual. What makes something home? How different, or similar, is the idea of home to each of us? [The piece] is staged within the structure of a sacred Native circle with each of the cast of eight (who play multiple characters) situated at of a compass' directional points. Centuries — from the 17th to the 21st — and characters — from a Spanish conquistador to a care volunteer from Denmark and Chief Standing Bear to a pioneer Mennonite â— are both distinctive and intermingled, ultimately braiding a message of history, self-awareness, comprehension and universality. The importance of phrasing, timing and intonation is of critical importance in a staged reading, where generally the piece's actors are more restrained in performance. The cast of "Home Land" — Katherine Hwang, Teddy Cañez, David Strathairn, LeRoy McClain, Annie Henk, Dan C. Jones and Jeremy Kendall — not only achieve the above, but deliver nicely conceived and executed portrayals with depth and profundity. "Home Land" is a piece that explores the past and the future of each of us in the present.” - Larry L. Kubert

— The Lincoln Journal Star

The script is stunning and so powerful - it seized me and carried me away. ". . . deep power, potency, accuracy, sweep, colors, passion . . . ” - Marilise Tronto
This is a mature, sophisticated play. Like rainwater in the Nebraska Sandhills, the play's haunting truths seep into the cracks where life begins and ends. And it is here where those hard truths are delivered with whispers - not megaphones - which of course make them resonate even louder.” - Joe Starita, author of the new book, I AM A MAN: CHIEF STANDING BEAR'S JOURNEY FOR JUSTICE, comments on HOME LAND.
To: Christopher Cartmill THANK YOU. Thank you for inviting my class and I. I really enjoyed it. What I was thinking is where I'm from. Where I call home. Where I fit in perfectly. I was born in Lincoln, but my family is from Iraq. I just want to go for at least one day and feel the sand on my feet, smell it. And bring some back with me. I call Iraq my homeland. I learned many, many stuff and I asked myself where's my homeland, during the play. Your actors and actresses were awesome. They were acting perfectly. And that play, I would never, never forget it. Thank you a lot.”

— A 'Thank You' Note from a student at Park Middle School in Lincoln, NE

POIGNANT PLAY SHOWS THAT MAGIC CAN HAPPEN The Apotheosis of Vaclav Drda tells the story of a rag-tag group of theater people — none of whom are getting paid — trying to produce a play with limited funding and even less hope of success.  That play is a powerful commentary on war and oppression in 1938 by the fictional Czech author Vaclav Drda. Early on, there is obvious tension between the actors in this play within a play. They butt heads on almost everything, from the terrible translation of the Czech script to (the director) Nick's casting to Steve's amateur ideas about theater (he calls it "play practice").  Everything seems to go wrong with this bunch, and the tension builds up until Joanna (the lead actress) breaks down . . . Eventually Joanna is left alone to weep for her dubious future in the theater.  Her grief lasts only a short while, however, as she is interrupted by a mysterious custodian . . . The peculiarly insightful stranger helps Joanna to realized that "recognition" is not the true test of greatness . . . Christopher Cartmill's The Apotheosis of Vaclav Drda was a deeply thought-provoking exploration of the meaning of theater in today's society.” - Kimber Wiggs

— The Ring-Tum Phi of Washington and Lee University

I read ROMEO'S DREAM in one breath. although there are many clues, it's hard to describe what it is. To me it reads like a cabalistic vaudeville, whatever that might be. it's layered like chocolate cake with nuts. It doesn't have one taste but many. The Kafkaesque atmosphere and language remind me a lot of bruno schultz, a polish-jewish writer whom I adore. There's a sense of chase and terror yet, at the same tame, there's flaming radiation of eroticism and desire, one finds in the cinema of Bunuel. it is an inspiring, provocative piece with very refined, spiral structure. I enjoyed it a lot. Christopher is quite a writer.”

Zeljko Djukic of TUTA Theater Company in Chicago

I always come away impressed from one of your plays, but last night I was even more deeply impressed by your range and command of short forms. Your plays showed a consummate command of timing and language and what I regard as an essential indifference to the portrayal of your own suffering (which showed elegantly enough through the bitter-sweetness and exactness of the language). VITAMINIZATION is a complete winner. So is ON THE PECULIARITY OF FEELING, and YOU AND A RAINY SUNDAY AFTERNOON opened my heart unexpectedly with its images of childhood. Recently I also have been viewing my life as if from the outside in, longing to remember when it was real, what was real. Thank you for giving me those images to recall when I'm feeling vaguely anxious.” - Allison Sniffin

— The Meredith Monk Company

BAILIWICK'S BOLD, EPIC STAGING IGNITES FURY OF FRENCH REVOLT INCORRUPTIBLE, Christopher Cartmill's fabulously ambitious, panoramic drama about the French Revolution, is exploding across the stage of the Bailiwick Repertory. The two-part, six hour production features a cast of 16 actor-singers playing nearly 100 roles: frenzied revolutionaries, blood-thirsty peasants, corrupt priests, blustering magistrates, pontificating philosophers, a prophet, a madwoman and a pious pornographer, among others. In a series of richly imagined dramatic scenes; comical, musical and dance interludes, and tableaux vivants, the sumptuous show moves through more than a decade in the life and psyche of Maximilien Robespierre, architect of the Reign of Terror. INCORRUPTIBLE is a monumental achievement on every level. Cartmill is best known as an actor. But with this play, he proves that he is also a gifted dramatist and formidable scholar, with a ripe theatrical sensibility. Like William Shakespeare, Cartmill can deftly switch scenes and moods, invent dozens of distinctive characters, and enable them all to speak in a poetry that conveys everything about their personalities and status. Bailiwick's epic never plays like a tedious history lecture. It is an intimate and voluptuous psychological, social and sexual portrait of a young revolutionary, a portrait that is brilliantly integrated into the larger and more complex tapestry of a nation into the throes of change and turmoil. INCORRUPTIBLE brims with dreams and nightmares, with satirical pageants, with plays-within-plays and with such cinematic devices as flash forwards and fade-ins. The carefully structured compilation of details gives this play its power. The first half of INCORRUPTIBLE ("On Innocence: 1789") chronicles the making of Robespierre's character, his homelife, his school days in Paris, the intricacies of his complicated and somewhat puritanical nature, and his growing sensitivity to the need for political action. The second half ("On Experience: 1794") depicts the making of the Reign of Terror, when 70,000 Frenchmen (and ultimately Robespierre himself) were killed in the ferocious purge that followed the initial revolutionary movement . . .” - Hedy Weiss on INCORRUPTIBLE

— Chicago Sun-Times

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