HANOVER — In the 1830s, federal policy led to what became known as “The Trail of Tears,” the forced relocation of Native Americans from their homeland in the southeastern United States.
The perilous journey on foot brought hunger, disease and death along hundreds of miles. Among the survivors were ancestors of Cherokee actress, writer and activist DeLanna Studi. Her great-great grandparents walked the trail from their home in Western North Carolina to Oklahoma, where Studi was raised.
Now Studi’s stage memoir, “And So We Walked,” chronicles the steps she and her father, Thomas Studi, took on a 900-mile section of “The Trail of Tears.” She brings her moving yet humorous story to the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets start at $20.
Studi developed the work in close collaboration with producer and director Corey Madden, who, over a 30-year professional career, has been the creator, director and/or producer of more than 300 works that have premiered across the country and in Europe.
On a research expedition in July 2014, Studi and Madden discovered Studi’s ancestral homestead on government maps archived at the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. The next summer, Studi started the journey to retrace the path her great-great grandparents took in the 1830s during the forced relocation of more than 17,000 Cherokee. By her side were a documentarian and her father Thomas, a full-blooded Cherokee who helped by interviewing tribal culture bearers in their native tongue. Madden joined the team whenever she could.
“And Then We Walked,” the result of four years of research and experiences, is presented on a pared-down yet evocative stage set of wooden boards and a few plain furnishings, along with a backdrop of wide cloth strips that capture projected images that help set the scenes.
Moving back and forth in time and voicing several dozen distinct characters, she recounts her childhood, her father’s experience in an Indian boarding school, the history of the Trail of Tears, and the people and situations she encounters on her journey — by turns comic, mystical and always more than what they seem. Her decision to pursue an acting career, her vivid, prophetic dreams, and a furtive romance also play their part in the enthralling narrative.
“And So We Walked” is presented in conjunction with CIPX Dartmouth: Kali Spitzer and Will Wilson, a project and exhibit of tintype and video work at the Hood Museum of Art through March 15.
For more information, go to hop.dartmouth.edu or call 646-2422.
Studi’s TV and film credits include Showtime’s “Shameless” series, ABC’s General Hospital” and SyFy’s “ZNation.” She performed in the first national Broadway tour of the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning “August: Osage County,” and won awards for her performances in Hallmark/ABC’s “Dreamkeeper” and Chris Eyre’s “Edge of America.”