illioo Native Theatre

illioo means “joyful” in the language of the Kalapuya people, on whose land we are honored to live, work and play. Founded in 2020 by Marta Lu Clifford (Chinook, Cree, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde), Lori Tapahonso (Diné, Acoma Pueblo) and Theresa May. illioo Native Theatre has grown out of fifteen years of relationship and artistic collaboartion between myself and Elder Marta Lu Clifford. As a company of Native and allied artists across our region, illioo Native Theatre celebrates and showcases Native/First Nations/Indigenous dramatists and artists through productions, concert readings and workshops that honor the spiritual importance of traditional performance forms, including storytelling and song. We also provide consultation in Indigenous dramaturgy to professional and community arts organization.

In development: BlueJay’s Canoe, by Theresa May and Marta Lu Clifford (Cree/Chinook/Grand Ronde).
BlueJay’s Canoe is a coming-of-age story that celebrates Oregon’s indigenous life-ways, language, and traditional ecological knowledge as expressed through stories. When 14-year-old Xak lands an afterschool job at KMAS radio, he meets the warmly brash BlueJay (Takelma/Chinook) and his Aunt Goldie, a storyteller who holds the secret of BlueJay’s past. Goldie’s stories help Xak proudly claim his Klamath and Latinx heritage as he figures out why BlueJay abandoned the canoe he started building years ago. Beginning about 6 months before covid, the action follows Xak, BlueJay and others as they meet some of the challenges and tragedies of 2020. Woven through with Oregon Native history, stories, music and activism, BlueJay’s Canoe is as a story of resilience and revitalization.

Recent projects: Salmon Is Everything, Very Little Theatre, Eugene; The Woman Who Was a Red Deer, Columbia Center for the Arts; Red Dress Poetry in the Park in honor of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Day; storytelling events, play readings and workshops.

Ongoing projects:
Salmon Is Everything – a play celebrating Indigenous ecological knowledge, community and civic action.
Native Play Readings – concert readings showcasing contemporary Indigenous dramatists
Storywork* – performance-based workshops on the power of new and traditional stories
New Work - developing new works that tell the stories that need to be told
Consultation – Indigenous values for local and regional arts and cultural organizations

Interested in booking a workshop, performance or collaboration? Just reach out!

Salmon is Everything
photo by Amirin White

Salmon Is Everything tells the story of the devastating fish-kill on the Klamath River and celebrates the resiliency of this diverse community. In the midst of the 2001-2002 drought, upwards of 70,000 salmon in the course of 2 weeks lay dead along the banks of the Klamath River, calling the region’s water policies into question, and pitting neighbor against neighbor.

Based on historical events, the play follows three families that represent three constituent communities in the Klamath River watershed: an upper Klamath ranching family, descendants of longtime residents; a Karuk-Yurok family, whose ancestors have lived in the Klamath watershed since time immemorial, and whose livelihood and culture depends upon salmon; and an environmentalist and her partner caught in the middle of a bitter watershed-wide conflict.

Archival video of Salmon Is Everything at VLT

Watch a five-minute excerpt from Salmon Is Everything

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*Storywork is a term coined by Jo-ann Archibald/ ’um Q’um Xiiem in Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body, and Spirit .