Vol. 2, Issue #20 October 26th - November 8th, 2007

Tiger Bear From Hell at NONzine.com

By: Wilhelm Murg

Diva of the Native -- Avant-Garde: Arigon Starr

The first time I heard the name Arigon Starr it was said with distaste by a blue-eyed, non-card carrying, “Indian” woman who seemed to think Arigon was everything the Native American world didn’t need - I was intrigued. While every interbred simpleton with a flute and a bonnet full of feathers was putting out mood music for horny new agers to “meditate” to in their hot tubs (usually with “happy endings”) and passing it off as Native American music, Arigon was one of the few Indians putting out critical and funny music, which ranged from country to punk rock, that actually made statements about contemporary Native life. In other words, she was dangerous; she might actually make an intelligent statement about the 500+ year occupation of America and make you laugh at the same time.

Arigon Starr is a true blue Native American woman and an award-winning singer-songwriter and actress. Her albums “Meet the Diva,” “Wind-Up,” “Backflip,” and “The Red Road - Original Cast Recording” (where she sings all the parts) are cult favorites in the Native American community. She’s Kickapoo-Creek-Cherokee & Seneca, and is a card-carrying member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma. On November 8th-10th she will be performing her one-woman show, “The Red Road,” at Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum.

“What is it? That’s good question,” Arigon laughed in her first NONzine interview. “I moved up to Los Angeles from San Diego with these big ideas, dreams to take over the entertainment business, and get a hit record, make a TV show. I’ve been doing all those kinds of things for a long time as a writer and as a song writer. Lately. For the past five years or so, I’ve been working with the theatre group ’Native Voices’ at the Autry Theatre, and it was there that they said I was a pretty good actor, and I started working with acting coaches and The Groundlings, the legendary improvisation group. While working with The Groundlings and working with Native Voices, a lot of people would come see me and they didn’t know I was a singer. So we put them all together and we cooked up this idea based on a song that hadn’t ended up on a record yet, called ’The Red Road,’ about a Native American truck driver, and I built the show around that, and it all came together.

“There were a lot of ways that I could have approached the one person show, and they get a bad rap because they are ‘ultra-confessional,’ ‘my bad childhood,’ and la-la-la-la-la-la; they seem really self-indulgent. But when I grew up in the Native American community, people would tell these wacky stories, they would go in and out of character - that stuff happened at my house - they would do people. So that’s how I approached ‘The Red Road.’ It’s a way to channel my multiple personalities.”

“This particular Piece is basically a musical comedy. It’s like some seventies sitcom with all these Native American people and an English punk rocker; it’s just strange. The show has also been selected for a big theater festival in Australia next year, and they have told me that it is the only play at the festival that is coming from North America, and they had never had a Native American performer featured at our festival before, so WAW! I’m scared. The Australian people got it. The Aboriginal people are so much like us that it’s scary. We have a lot of the same types of interrelationships from different tribes, because they have different tribes there, I almost feel like they are about twenty or thirty years behind where the Indians in America are, and that’s not great!”

While Native punk and musical comedy are her passions, she’s also working on a comic book for print, the web, radio performances, and even a live version. “I’m also working on this comic book called ‘Super Indian,’ which is also a radio show that is going to debut on in November on Native American Radio, KSFR-FM, on Satellite. That’s more like Monty Python meets Native America. ‘Super Indian’ is done for laughs; an Indian guy eats tainted commodity cheese and gets super powers, and he has a sidekick and a talking dog. I’ve written the scripts, I wrote ten episodes that are five minutes apiece, and then we’re doing six more episodes here in Los Angeles as just a staged reading. I’m particularly happy because we got Charlie Hill, THE premier Native American comedian, to come and help us with that. (visit SuperIndianComics.com for more information)

I mentioned to Arigon that she is something of an anti-Joanna Shenandoah, the sanctimonious singer who gets awards for singing bad folk songs about the 500 years of suffering the Native people have gone through - her music is insufferable. “She just does that, and because of her, all the rest of us get branded with that. GAAWD! I’m not like that. I think my secret weapon is that I come from a good place, I’m not out to put people down. It comes from strength and humor. If I did those things straight without making a joke out of it none of it would have flown. People would wonder ‘what is wrong with that angry woman?’ I’m angry, but I’m taking that angry and turning it into humor because I think that works better, especially outside of the Native American community.

People get ‘guilted’ out and when that happens they tune you out, they’re done with you.” For more information visit arigonstarr.com.

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