Online Comedians 'The 1491s' Take Their Indian Humor To Stage

Apr 9, 2019

For years, the Native American comedy troupe, The 1491s, have shared their irreverent, raunchy, and provocative humor on YouTube. Now – as KLCC’s Brian Bull reports - they’ve officially shifted from video skits to their first theatrical production here in Oregon.

The Catholic boarding school era is lampooned when Irma (Shyla Lefner, center) is put into the care of a group of dancing - and kung-fu action - nuns.
Credit Jenny Graham / Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The 1491s take no prisoners.  Whether it’s Old West Bravado, New Age Shamanism, or even native society itself…anything’s game. In this video, they depict Indians auditioning for the werewolf pack in the “Twilight” movie series, being coached by a cultural advisor.

A pack of aspiring lycanthropes prepare to audition for the Twilight film series, in this scene from one of The 1491s most popular videos.
Credit The 1491s / YouTube.org

“The spirits will be here, so...make sure that you do it in a respectful way so you don't anger them and they kill you in your sleep,” he tells them, before the hopeful actors make wolf howls and "do Indian things."

Now the 1491s have written a play, “Between Two Knees”, co-commissioned with New Native Theatre and performed at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland through October.  Co-writer Bobby Wilson is Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota.  He says he enjoys turning the tables on white people in the colonial storyline.

In a send-up of New Age shamanism, a self-made mystic officiates the wedding between main characters Isaiah (Derek Garza, left) and Irma (Shyla Lefner, right).
Credit Jenny Graham / Oregon Shakespeare Festival

“I don’t think that we go easy on Indians, either," he tells KLCC.  "I think that there’s some very biting criticisms about people from our own communities within this play as well. And I’m curious to see how that is perceived by our audiences.”

The story occurs between the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890, and the Wounded Knee Occupation of 1973. Highlights include a boarding school fight sequence, an interstellar musical number, and one unforgettable “explosion.”

Between Two Knees is an American Revolutions commission written by the 1491s and directed by Eric Ting.  Scenic design by Regina Garcia; costume design by Lux Haac; lighting design by Elizabeth Harper; composer & sound designer is Jake Rodriguez; projection design by Shawn Duan. Production dramaturg is Julie Felise Dubiner; voice & text director is David Carey; fight director is Rod Kinter; production stage manager is Jill Rendall.

Promotional masthead for Between Two Knees, featuring Larry the narrator (Justin Gauthier).
Credit Ryan Red Corn / Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The show runs until October 27.

Copyright 2019, KLCC.