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Humor helps share hard truths about Native American history in 'Between Two Knees'

The play "Between Two Knees" doesn't hold back, laying bare the inadequate ways Native American history has been glossed over, a history full of trauma.

SEATTLE — "Between Two Knees" has been called a weighty, witty, mad dash through some abominable, almost unimaginable tragedies of American history. The play shares hard truths about the realities Native Americans have faced in this country.

Events from the Wounded Knee Massacre in late 1890 to the Wounded Knee Occupation by the American Indian Movement in 1973 are covered in this two-hour play. Opening scenes set the audience up for the premise of it: most people in this country aren't taught a lot about Indigenous history.

Jud Gauthier plays the character of Larry who serves as the narrator and guide who tells the audience it's okay to laugh despite the heavy topics at the center of the play. That sets up the unusual history lesson the show delivers.

“That’s how I feel every time I do the opening monologue. I’m about to tell you some things you can only hear if you travel to a reservation," Gauthier said. "I feel like it can be an uncomfortable moment for the audience to realize that’s (traumatic events) happening in the land of opportunity.” 

Billed as a comedy, "Between Two Knees" is described by the actors as being authentically Native.

“I feel that 'Between Two Knees' is ripping that curtain open and letting all that humor that’s been secretly stashed for a long time. It spills out from the stage to the audience," Gauthier said. 

“That’s what got our people through, humor, and I’m glad that’s happening now. We’re laughing at ourselves along with them," Wotko Long, another actor in the play, said.

For Long, the truths talked about in this play reflect some of his lived experiences.

"I’m a product of that generation of boarding schools. My dad was taken away from his mom, cut his hair, punished for speaking his language," Long said. “It feels like we’re protesting on stage, but we’re telling the truth. The truth needs to come out.”

Watch the full interview with Jud Gauthier, Wotko Long and Eric Ting below.

I had the chance to interview "Between Two Knees" actors Jud Gauthier, Wotko Long, and their director, Eric Ting. A great conversation about the play with a lot of insight into the work they're putting on the stage. Seattle Rep

Posted by Cornelius Hocker KING 5 on Tuesday, March 14, 2023

“For Native people, it’s all about the seven generations that came before you and the seven generations that’ll come after you.," Derek Garza, another actor in the play, said. 

Sitting alongside Shyla Lefner, his romantic interest in the play, Garza and Lefner say their connection to their Native identity helps them bring their characters to life. They both referred to what they do on stage as making magic with their family. The full interview with Garza and Lefner is below.

Loved getting to chat with Derek Garza and Shyla Lefner, two of the stars of "Between Two Knees" that's running at Seattle Rep until March 26. The show, billed as a comedy, tackles a lot of tough topics that are often glossed over when we learn about Native American History. Here's our full interview.

Posted by Cornelius Hocker KING 5 on Tuesday, March 14, 2023

For a preview of what to expect from "Between Two Knees" click here. It's the first play by the intertribal sketch comedy troupe, The 1491s. The group is best known for the hit television series, “Reservation Dogs.” 

"Between Two Knees" runs through March 26. Information for tickets can be found here. Seattle Rep does offer free tickets for self-identified Native individuals to see all their shows. To request complimentary tickets, call the Patron Services Office at (206) 443-2222. 


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