With Sovereignty, her new play at Marin Theatre Company, which opened Oct. 1 and runs through Oct. 20, Mary Kathryn Nagle hopes to move the needle on that neglect. The play centers on Sarah Ridge Polson, a young Cherokee lawyer fighting to restore her Nation’s jurisdiction, confronting the ever-present ghosts of her grandfathers. With shadows stretching from 1830s Cherokee Nation (now present-day Georgia) through Andrew Jackson’s Oval Office, along the fateful Trail of Tears, to the Cherokee Nation in present-day Oklahoma—Sovereignty travels the powerful intersections of personal and political truths; bridging our country’s distant past and imminent future.
“At a time when the current President of the United States thinks that the Trail of Tears is nothing more than a joke he can use as a political weapon, it is critical that Americans learn about the attempt, and failure, of President Andrew Jackson to completely eradicate my Nation and all Cherokee Nation citizens on the Trail of Tears,” Nagle says. “We are still here today, and I am so thankful that Marin Theatre Company is giving me the chance to share a story that most Americans have never heard.”
Marin Independent Journal theater critic Sam Hurwitt saw Sovereignty in its opening days and came away impressed. “Every once in a while a play comes along that teaches you something important that you might not have heard about otherwise,” he writes. “That’s what Sovereignty does in its West Coast premiere opening Marin Theatre Company’s new season.”
“In fact, playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle is transparent to a fault in educating audiences about the impossible legal bind that the Cherokee Nation has been in for generations, since a 1978 court decision left tribal nations without jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-Indians on tribal land,” he adds, noting that Nagle “succeeds in making a strong enough case for the vital importance of the issues and history involved that it makes it easy to forgive some significant flaws in the play and some of its performances.”
“Sovereignty tells a story that we don’t normally get to hear, from a perspective not often given a platform in American theater,” concludes Hurwitt.