New play ‘Indian Head’ recalls NJ’s own ‘Redskins’ mascot controversy
The drama over Native American-themed school mascots and names, which has received plenty of attention in New Jersey, is getting the spotlight once again. But this time, it'll be on stage.
"Indian Head," written by Bloomfield resident Nikkole Salter, makes its world premiere Friday at Luna Stage in West Orange.
The year is 2014. The place is Cumberland County. A Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape high school girl is caught for vandalizing her school's scoreboard, which features the Indian-in-headdress logo of the fictional Chipeekany Warriors.
"Here are vestiges of people all around us, but you don't see them," Salter told New Jersey 101.5. "So I proposed that I would write a story that would bring the Native American community in New Jersey to the forefront of our stages."
Salter slowly formed the idea for "Indian Head," she said, after moving to New Jersey in 2008. Unique municipality names with Native American origin, such as Passaic and Weehawken, piqued her interest. And the school mascot controversy, which had and still does have a presence in the state, became her avenue to tell future audience members of New Jersey's past.
In Mid-October, Keyport's Board of Education voted to retain the school's Red Raider name and logo, despite calls from a 1994 Keyport High graduate to make a change. Parsippany High School switched its mascot from the Redskins to the Redhawks in 2001.
"Indian Head" was commissioned through New Jersey Performing Arts Center's Stage Exchange program, which promotes the work of Garden State playwrights and their Jersey-centric themes.
"I spent a year getting to know the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribe," Salter said. "I had to learn everything, from the historic context to their contemporary issues and trials and struggles and triumphs and daily existence."
Previews started on Feb. 2. Opening night is Feb. 10 with four shows per week through Mar. 5.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.