|Actor Joseph Runningfox|
Was Cherokee leader Kah-nung-da-tla-geh aka Major Ridge a traitor or savior to his people? That’s the central question of the theatrical production Not One More Foot of Land! that includes the tragic Trail of Tears. Ridge is played by Venice actor Joseph Runningfox (known for his award winning portrayal of Geronimo). He puts a human face on a historical figure in a dramatic and emotional fashion.
We get a taste of what Cherokee life was like as the settlers encroached upon their lands in northern Georgia. Laughs are provided by Ridge’s interactions with his wife Sehoya (Donell Morgan) who keeps his ego in check. Despite being a proud warrior he was still bound by Cherokee tradition to defer all major family decisions to her. Perhaps Native American women are the original feminists. Ridge transitions from hunter/warrior to farmer/politician, walking a dangerous tightrope between the Indian and white worlds.
Runningfox deftly displays Ridge’s internal struggles as he drew a line in the sand but saw the sands keep shifting after the betrayal of former ally Andrew Jackson (Tim Davis), now US President, who turned a blind eye to the continued attacks and illegal seizing of Native American lands. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 made Ridge realize the Cherokee were fighting a losing battle. After years of resistance he concluded moving westward was crucial for survival. This lead to Ridge falling out with Principal Chief John Ross (Brian Wescott) and created a division in Cherokee Nation that has never fully healed. The Ross faction refused to leave and was forcibly removed in the dead of winter that became known as The Trail of Tears.
About half of the large ensemble cast is of Native American decent lending authenticity to the production. Playwright Art Shulman does an admirable job of portraying both sides and truly allows the audience to decide for themselves if Major Ridge was a traitor or savior. Seeing Not One More Foot of Land! was a worthwhile trip from the beach to the NoHo Arts District.
Not One More Foot of Land! at the Secret Rose Theatre 11246 Magnolia Blvd NoHo 91601 thru April 1st. Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm & Sundays at 2pm. Tickets: 818 782-4254 or www.secretrose.com
Guest Writer: Tryg Hanson Editor: Janet Gervers