KINGSPORT – The City of Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts is proud to present the musical Nanyehi: Beloved Woman of the Cherokee, its Tennessee debut, in mid-October 2014 at the Renaissance Arts Center & Theatre in Kingsport in collaboration with the Kingsport Theatre Guild. A public stage reading will take place at the Allendale Mansion Amphitheater on July 10, 2014. Auditions will take place the next day on July 11, 2014.
Nanyehi is a two-act musical with 17 songs brought to you by Grammy Award nominated songwriter, Becky Hobbs and co-playwright, Nick Sweet, based on the life of Becky’s 5th-great grandmother, Nancy Ward, who was first honored as a Cherokee warrior, then as a peace maker in the 1700’s. She was first named Nanyehi, and later known as Nancy Ward. Nanyehi means, “she who walks among the spirit people.” On the day she was born, a white wolf appeared on the horizon. This was very significant to the Cherokee people, as “white” was the color that symbolized “peace,” and Nanyehi was born into the Wolf Clan, one of the most prominent of the seven Cherokee clans. She was born in approximately 1738, in Chota, the capital of the Cherokee Nation, in an area that is now eastern Tennessee. Enormous changes took place during her lifetime, she died in 1822.
Hobbs said she hoped to inspire and make a difference with people after they watched the production. There are a lot of people who have given up hope today and especially young people, she said. We look around and theyre living in a virtual world. I want to inspire people to do better to make this world a better place.
In 1776, after the illegal sale of lands in Tennessee, Wards cousin, Dragging Canoe, organized a series of attacks against white settlers. However, Ward sent runners to warn the whites of the approaching attacks. Dragging Canoe was wounded and three of the attacks were unsuccessful.
That Nanyehi could be such a strong woman back then when woman werent considered important, just shows that in the Indian culture they were said Hobbs
Highlights from the musical include the Battle of Taliwa, a Cherokee marriage ceremony and Ward saving the life of a white settler and a stickball game.
The two-act production also includes several dance numbers and songs such as Song of the Nunnehi or spirit people, Pass the Whiskey, This Land is Not Our Land and There Will Be Blood.
Cherokee Nation citizen Jenna Stocks choreographed the dances. The songs are really contemporary and they use contemporary instruments, so the dancing has been more contemporary and less traditional, Jenna Stocks said. Its a very meaningful play. Its meaningful to the Cherokee Nation because she was a strong leader, and so I think its very touching.
Hobbs came up with the idea of telling Wards story via a musical after writing some of the songs now in the production in the 1990s. It was after meeting Nick Sweet, who directed the Cherokee Heritage Centers Trail of Tears drama that the musical Nanyehi, Beloved Woman of the Cherokee was set into motion. Today, the production contains 17 songs.
Hobbs is best known for writing Angels Among Us, recorded by Alabama, as well as writing and recording her hits, Jones on the Jukebox and Honky Tonk Saturday Night. Her co-writer, Sweet, is a freelance stage director who has directed more than 100 productions, including the historical outdoor drama Trail of Tears in 2002.
For Nanyehi, Sweet directs the musical production and Hobbs serves as musical director.
Other characters included Dragging Canoe, Wards mother, Tenia; Cherokee chiefs Attakullakulla and Oconastota; Wards first husband, Kingfisher; and second husband, Bryant Ward as well as Wards friend Sequina.
“Becky Hobbs’s and Nick Sweet’s interpretive story of Nanyehi is a world-class musical production. As one of her descendants, the story of Nancy Ward is both inspirational and deeply personal to me. The stirring compositions, riveting dialogue and modern choreography make this a must-see piece of musical theater. Cherokee Nation history enthusiasts and theater fans will be mesmerized with Becky’s wonderful creation.”
—Bill John Baker, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief
“NANYEHI is a powerful, sweeping saga told in achingly personal terms. Nashville performer and songwriter Becky Hobbs has long been able to turn a phrase and evoke an emotion with the best of her peers; collaborating here with veteran stage director Nick Sweet, her songs propel a real-world story that reverberates with wisdom. feeling, and shared humanity.”
—John Wooley, author of SHOT IN OKLAHOMA and FROM THE BLUE DEVILS TO RED DIRT: THE COLORS OF OKLAHOMA MUSIC
“Every aspect of this production, from the quality of the performers, most of them local, to the structure and dialogue of each scene, to the beauty of the music, is spectacular… I have never cared so deeply or shed so many tears for characters in a play… this musical deserves a permanent place in the hall of fame of American creative productions.”
—Stanley A. Rice, Professor of Biological Sciences, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant