Trail of Tears: Walking the Choctaw Road

A co-production of Ballet Austin and Pollyanna Theatre Company
Libretto by Award-Winning Playwright Emily Cicchini
Choreography by Gina Patterson
Directed by Judy Matetszchk-Campbell, Ph.D.

Trail of Tears received three B. Iden Payne Awards in 2005:
Judy Matetzschk-Campbell, Outstanding Director of a Play for Youth;  Gina Patterson, Outstanding Choreographer;  Ia Layadi, Outstanding Costume Design.

Ballet Austin and Pollyanna Theatre collaborated to create this original production of Trail of Tears: Walking the Choctaw Road. After discovering Tim Tingle’s book, Walking the Choctaw Road, Judy Matetzschk-Campbell, Pollyanna Theatre Founding Director, realized Tim’s stories would make a wonderful stage production for youth and families. The tragic tales about the forced removal of the Choctaw Indians from their native lands shed new light on this historical event.

The collaborators feel a great responsibility to show respect and honor for the Native American people and their culture. The Choctaws’ amazing courage and tolerance in the face of discrimination teaches us much we can apply in our lives today.

This dance drama is based on Tim Tingle’s book, Walking the Choctaw Road. Tim teaches the mystery and power of the Choctaw Nation and their legends through his stories, songs, flute and drum. As an Oklahoma Choctaw and collector of Choctaw oral literature, Tim travels across America presenting native songs and stories. He uses vocables, sounds that do not directly translate into words, as part of his native chants and songs during performances. Tim’s recorded voice is used to provide narration and sound effects during the performance.

Tim has generously shared his stories with the Trail of Tears: Walking the Choctaw Road collaborators, guiding the project with the care of an historian and the soul of an artist. He helps make sure the dance drama remains an authentic representation of Choctaw experiences and stories.

The Choctaw lived peacefully for hundreds of years. They farmed using tools made from stone, wood, and bone. They hunted large game with bows and arrows and smaller animals using a blow gun made from swamp cane. For awhile, the French and then the British controlled the Choctaw until the United States Government recognized the independent Choctaw Nation in January 1786. In 1830, the treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek began the process of Native American relocation to Oklahoma, which means Red People, in reference to the red colored clay soil. The Choctaw traded 23 million acres of land in Mississippi for 13 million acres in Oklahoma. They were the first tribe to begin the 350 mile journey on the Trail of Tears. One fourth of the Choctaw died of hunger and disease while traveling during one of the most severe winters in recorded history.