Rhiana Yazzie is a Navajo playwright but is also an all around theatre maker (producer, director, actor) and filmmaker based in Minnesota. She is a 2018/19 Bush Leadership Fellow, a 2017 Sally Award Winner for Vision, a 2016/2017 Playwrights’ Center McKnight Fellow, a two-time Playwrights’ Center Jerome Fellow (2010/2011 and 2006/2007) and was a Playwrights’ Center Core Member for three years. She has just finished her new play, QUEEN CLEOPATRE AND PRINCESS POCAHONTAS for a joint commission from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Public Theater for American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle. She is in post production with her first feature film, A WINTER LOVE (writer/director/starring). She has recently finished a new play, Nancy, about Nancy Reagan and her intersection with Indian Country in the 80s, astrology, and her little known about Native heritage.
She created New Native Theatre in 2009, a company based in the Twin Cities; it is a new way of looking at, thinking about, and staging Native American stories. Notable recent productions include Native Man the Musical which was praised by the Twin Cities’ local Native American newspaper, The Circle News, “The paradigm of Native American manhood shifted with New Native Theatre’s production.” It was followed up by Native Woman the Musical in 2018. Other successes include an original commission of a full-length musical comedy, 2012: The Musical! New Native Theater just completed celebrating its Tenth Anniversary Season in which they premiered 6 mainstage plays, 5 of which were world premieres.
Rhiana’s foray into filmmaking includes working on Musa Syeed’s new feature, A Stray (SXSW 2016; MSP Int’l Film Festival “Best MN-Made Narrative Feature 2016”) as an actor, production coordinator, and script supervisor. In February 2015, she directed a short segment of the upcoming documentary, Dodging Bullets, about historical trauma in the Native community. Rhiana is a graduate of the Masters of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California where she had the pleasure to produce events for the student body which included lectures and concerts by Madeleine Albright, Herbie Hancock, Spaulding Grey, Paula Vogel, and Stephen Hawking.
She has been passionate about working with the Barbara Schneider Foundation, an organization dedicated to training law enforcement and health care professionals about the process of recognizing and de-escalating people in a mental health crisis.
She was a playwright in residence at the William Inge Center in Independence, Kansas, Fall 2014 and is currently working on a play commission for the Inge Center. While in residence at the MacDowell Colony in 2016 she worked on two new screenplays.
Rhiana has written for young audiences; her play Chile Pod, about a Mixtec girl, commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse, toured to 18,000 youth in Southern California schools and communities. She has been a resident at the biennial Bonderman National Theatre for Youth Symposium and The Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices.
She is the three time winner of the Native Radio Theatre annual new play contest; her radio play The Best Place To Grow Pumpkins received an Honorable Mention at the ImagiNative Film Festival in Toronto for Best Radio.
A few of Rhiana’s plays are published online in university libraries across the country through Alexander Street Press.
A few of her other plays include Asdzani Shash: The Woman Who Turned into a Bear (finalist in the 2005 Bay Area Playwrights Festival; 1st annual Two Worlds Festival Native American Theatre, 2008); The Long Flight (translated into Spanish and pres the 30th World Congress of the International Theatre Institute – UNESCO in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico; and a 2002 finalist for the Princess Grace Playwriting Award); This Land Had Seen War Before was published in a 2008 anthology, BIRTHED FROM SCORCHED HEARTS: WOMEN RESPOND TO WAR, edited by MariJo Moore that includes contributions from Amy Goodman, Paula Gunn Allen, and Matilde Urrutia.