Indianz.Com > News > Lakota playwright Larissa FastHorse wins prestigious ‘genius grant’
MacArthur Foundation: Larissa FastHorse, Playwright | 2020 MacArthur Fellow
Lakota playwright Larissa FastHorse wins prestigious ‘Genius’ grant
Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Larissa FastHorse, a citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, has won a prestigious fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, an award popularly known as a “genius grant.”

FastHorse is being recognized for her work in the arts. She is a playwright who advocates for accurate representation of Native peoples.

“A member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, FastHorse combines a keen sense of satire and facility with dramatic forms in plays that are funny, incisive, and, at times, deeply unsettling for audiences faced with the realities of Native Americans’ experience in the United States,” the MacArthur Foundation states.

Larissa FastHorse. Photo © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation – used with permission

FastHorse resides in California. Her works include Average Family, which depicts a reality television show featuring one Native and one non-Native family; Urban Rez, based on urban Indian communities in the Los Angeles area; and Native Nation, which was created in partnership with citizens of nearly every tribal nation in Arizona.

“I think as a Native American Lakota playwright, I have a unique view of the theater world that other playwrights don’t,” FastHorse says in a video released but the MacArthur Foundation.

FastHorse is a co-founder of Indigenous Direction, a consulting firm that works with companies and artists who want to create accurate work about, for and with Native peoples. She is one of 21 recipients of the MacArthur fellowship, which comes with a $625,000 award.

“In the midst of civil unrest, a global pandemic, natural disasters, and conflagrations, this group of 21 exceptionally creative individuals offers a moment for celebration,” Cecilia Conrad, the managing director of MacArthur Fellows,” said in announcing the class of 2020. “They are asking critical questions, developing innovative technologies and public policies, enriching our understanding of the human condition, and producing works of art that provoke and inspire us.”

Past Native recipients of the MacArthur fellowship include the late Elouise Cobell, a citizen of the Blackfeet Nation who won the landmark Indian trust fund lawsuit; attorney and professor Sarah Deer, a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation who is a leader in efforts to protect Native women from violence and crime; Jessie Little Doe Baird, a citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe who has helped revive her people’s language; and Sven Haakanson, an Alutiiq scholar from Alaska.

In her own words: Larissa FastHorse
From the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation:
“When I start a play, I don’t have a preordained idea of what form it should take or the point of the story or how it ends. Sometimes the community I am working with determines those things, sometimes it is up to me. Either way, I write the first draft of the script very quickly, allowing the characters to say and do what they want.

One time, without warning, my favorite character killed himself. I burst into tears at the shock. Then my job was to embed that personal, visceral experience into the action of the script. That’s where the real work happens in draft after draft, crafting that emotional journey underneath the action, a roller coaster ride hidden in plain sight. But when it works and I watch an entire audience gasp or laugh or cry together, it’s magic. It’s why we need theater.”
Photo © John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation – used with permission