Diane Glancy is an award winning author of novels, poetry and plays. Her play “Salvage” is the featured offering at the Oklahoma City Theatre Company Native American Play Festival. Glancy draws on her Cherokee heritage to illuminate the conditions within the Native American Culture. In “Salvage” her characters have mainstream problems which are relevant to anyone, however some of the attitudes reflected indicate the typically Native American attitude that is not necessarily universal, although certainly understandable.
Director Sarah d’Angelo is also Native American and she has assembled a cast of Native Americans for this presentation. Although they represent varied levels of theatrical experience each actors displays an excellent affinity for theatre with remarkable stage presence in all cases.
“Salvage” tells the story of a couple living next to a salvage yard which is owned by the husband and his father. Father Wolfert and son Wolf are involved in a tragic accident with the Stover family and unfortunately Mrs. Stover ultimately dies, and one of their children is badly injured. Due to apparent ‘bad blood’ pre-existing between the families, and the extent of Harry Stover’s grief, he concludes that the accident was deliberate. Wolf and Wolfert along with Wolf’s wife, Memela, must struggle with their own grief, as well as the enmity of Mr. Stover as he attempts to revenge himself against the family for the death of his wife. While the courts recognize that the incident is accidental, Stover blames Wolf for Mrs. Stover’s death. He terrorizes the family.
Wolfert is beautifully portrayed by Michael Edmonds. Although “Salvage” is his first Oklahoma City production, Edmonds has performed in numerous movies and television shows and is a proud member of the Screen Actors Guild. A teacher and coach, Edmonds has also traveled the Pow Wow circuit as a professional fancy dancer, traditional musician and speaker. His son, Wolf is handled by Jeremy Tanequodle, a student in public relations at the University of Central Oklahoma. Tiffany Tuggle as Memela, Wolf’s wife, is familiar to audiences in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area for her many roles and earned a B.A. in Theatre from Southwestern Oklahoma State University.
These three are the only players presented on stage in the production. However there are a few important characters in “Salvage” never seen. Mr. Stover, the driver of the other vehicle in the accident is significantly present as well as Phoebe, the deceased wife of Wolfert. Incidentally mentioned, are Wolf and Memela’s two teen boys. While they do not have a significant presence they do establish important motivation for Wolf and Memela as parents.
“Salvage” is written with numerous very small scenes which can be a very effective approach. However the style has a few pitfalls. Only very careful direction avoids the resulting fragmentation that can occur. In “Salvage” d’Angelo has not quite compensated for this and the result is a very choppy presentation. The scene changes flow nicely so a few rehearsals and performances may allow the actors to create an even performance. Wolf and Memela have two teen boys who are never seen. As Tanequodle and Tuggle are both young actors playing self-absorbed immature characters their age does not seem credible. Their characters would be much more believable if d’Angelo simply had them refer to toddlers rather than teens. In this instance, author Glancy would probably not mind the slight tinkering with the script.
“Salvage” is being presented through June 10, 2012 at the City Space Theatre in the Civic Center Music Hall in downtown Oklahoma City. For ticket information contact the box office at 405-297-2264 or visit www.okctc.org. The production is the centerpiece for the Native American New Play Festival and also features staged readings of “Chalk in the Rain” by Bret Jones, “Broken Heart Land” by Vicki Lynn Mooney and “Waaxe’s Law” by Mary Kathryn Nagle. Staged readings will be held the afternoons of June 9 and June 10 and a complete festival schedule can be found at the www.okctc.org.