Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.
This is Doug Johnson. On our program today:
We play a song we have chosen to be our new theme music ...
Answer a listener’s question about the book “Hanta Yo” ...
And report about a celebration of American theater.
Contemporary American Theater Festival
Shepherdstown is the oldest town in the state of West Virginia. Every summer, it presents several of the newest American plays during the Contemporary American Theater Festival. Mary Tillotson tells us more.
Shepherdstown, West Virginia, is on a hill near the Potomac River. American Indians lived in the area long before the first Europeans arrived in the early seventeen-hundreds. Many of the first settlers were German. The main street in Shepherdstown is still called German Street.
Shepherd College was established in eighteen-seventy-one to teach students languages and science. Every summer since nineteen-ninety-one the Contemporary American Theater Festival has taken place at the college.
Ed Herendeen started the theater festival and continues as its director. During three weeks each summer, the festival presents new American plays. Some plays were written by famous writers. Some were written by those who are not well known. Four plays are being presented this summer.
One is called “The Late Henry Moss.” The famous playwright Sam Shepard wrote it. It takes place in the American West. Two brothers deal with their violent past, the death of their father and family secrets.
The Contemporary American Theater Festival is also presenting “Thief River” by award-winning playwright Lee Blessing. It is about the love between two men from a farming community in the state of Minnesota. The play tells about their relationships with each other and their families from the nineteen-fifties to the present time. Another new play is called “Orange Flower Water” by Craig Wright. It also takes place in a small town in Minnesota. It tells the story of a man and woman whose love for each other hurts their families.
The fourth play is called “Silence of God” by Catherine Filloux. It is about a woman whose friend is a survivor of the killings by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during the nineteen-seventies. The woman becomes a reporter to find out why evil exists in the world. She meets with former Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot. Yet the meeting raises more questions than it provides answers.
Many people from the Washington, D-C, area travel to Shepherdstown for the yearly theater festival. They want to be among the first people to see some new American plays.
Our VOA listener question this week comes from Nigeria. Emmanuel Komolafe asks about an American book called “Hanta Yo.”
The full title of the book is “Hanta Yo: An American Saga.” It was published in nineteen-seventy-nine and was very popular. It sold many copies. It stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for nine months.
“Hanta Yo” was written by Ruth Beebe Hill. It is the story of native American Indians at a time before white people arrived on their land. It describes the activities of two families of the Sioux Indian tribe from the seventeen-hundreds to the eighteen-thirties. The book describes the values of the Lakota or Sioux Indian culture by showing their effects on a man called Ahbleza. The book is about his life and the people in his group, the Mahto.
People who have read “Hanta Yo” say the book describes many activities of the Indians’ lives. These include working, hunting and caring for children. However, not all the Indians are shown as good people. Some of them are violent and full of hate. Women are shown as severely oppressed with little or no decision-making power. Children and animals are treated poorly.
Ruth Beebe Hill described all this as an Indian would, using Lakota words and judgements. She also linked the real world and the spiritual world in which the Sioux lived. Both were important to the Sioux.
Ruth Beebe Hill studied the Sioux Indian culture for many years before writing “Hanta Yo.” She was very careful about the language she used. She translated the book from English to the Sioux language. Then she translated it back into English. She said this kept her from using any words that were not part of the Lakota language.
She also did not use words or ideas that were not part of the Sioux culture. For example, the Lakota language has no word that means “forgive.” The word and the idea did not exist in their culture.
Many people think “Hanta Yo” is an excellent book. However, it is becoming more difficult to find. It can still be found in libraries and used bookstores. The book is still celebrated as a true picture of a Native American culture that has disappeared.
New Mosaic Theme
((MUSIC FROM "LOVER’S LEAP"))
Each week we play music on American Mosaic. We only play part of each song because our program is only fifteen minutes long. We try to give our listeners a good idea of what the song is like. Sometimes this is difficult. The music we want to play today is a good example. The song is a little more than six minutes long so we can’t play all of it. However, we want to play as much as possible because we think it is not only good, but different. We like it so much that we have decided to make it the new theme for American Mosaic. Shep O’Neal tells us more.
Many of you may know the name Bela Fleck. He has played here at VOA and we have played his music on American Mosaic. Bela Fleck plays jazz on the banjo. He and his band, The Flecktones, often experiment with different sounds. Our recording today shows this.
The song is called “Lover’s Leap”. It is on his record called “Live at the Quick.”
“Lover’s Leap” is unusual because Bela Fleck has brought together instruments that are usually not heard in combination. These include the electric banjo, French horn, oboe, bass guitar, electric drums, clarinet and a musical instrument usually found in the islands of the Caribbean. It is called a steel pan. Steel pans or steel drums usually play music of the West Indies. Together, these instruments make a very unusual sound. We think you will like it as much as we do. So, we leave you now with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones playing “Lover’s Leap.”
((CUT 1: "LOVER’S LEAP"))
This is Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today. And I hope you will join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC — VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.
This AMERICAN MOSAIC program was written by Shelley Gollust, Nancy Steinbach and Paul Thompson. Our studio engineer was Curtis Bynum. And our producer was Paul Thompson.