UB American Studies Faculty Members in National Spotlight

Release Date: June 21, 1991 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Two unusually visible members of the American studies faculty at the State University of New York at Buffalo are again in the national spotlight.

Onondagan Chief Oren R. Lyons will be the subject of a nationally broadcast interview with journalist Bill Moyers in July and playwright Endesha Ida Mae Holland has seen another production of her autobiographical play, "From the Mississippi Delta," staged by a highly regarded regional theater.

Lyons (Jo-Ag-Quis-Ho) is director of the Native American Studies Program in UB's Department of American Studies. He will be the subject of a broadcast by Bill Moyers' PBS program titled "The Faithkeeper" to be aired at 9 p.m. EST Wednesday, July 3 .

Lyons is a clan chief and faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation headquartered in central New York State. He is deeply involved with national and international issues that affect native peoples and has represented them in many forums throughout the world.

Lyons was among indigenous spiritual leaders from around the world who participated in an international conference on the environment held in Moscow in 1990. He has also addressed UN audiences on environmental issues. Last summer, Lyons was a member of the negotiating team sent by the Iroquois Confederacy to negotiate with the provincial government of Quebec and the Canadian national government on behalf of the Mohawk tribe during the land-use dispute at Oka, Quebec.

Holland, professor of American studies at the University at Buffalo, saw her autobiographical play, From the Mississippi Delta, win new fans when it was staged in May by the Hartford Theater Company (Conn.) under the artistic direction of Mark Lamos. The production was praised by critics from Variety and The Boston Globe, as well as by the Hartford press.

It played to sold-out houses throughout its run, which was extended by popular demand through June 22. In honor of the play, its sensibilities and its author, the mayor of Hartford declared Sunday, June 16 "Endesha Ida Mae Holland Day."

The award-winning Delta premiered in Buffalo in 1987 under the direction of UB theater professor Edward Smith. The production transferred to the New Federalist Theater (New York City) where it received excellent reviews from the New York Post, the New York Times and the Daily News and received two prestigious AUDELCO (Audience Development Committee) awards for writing and direction.

It was honored as well by a highly acclaimed touring production by New York's Negro Ensemble Theater that played to sold-out theaters in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Washington, Buffalo and throughout the eastern and midwestern United States.

The play was nominated for the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and, in the two years that followed, enjoyed very successful separate productions at the Young Vic Theater in London, England; the Cincinnati Playhouse; the St. Louis Repertory Theatre (directed again by Smith), and Chicago's Northlight Theater.

The Northlight production of "Delta" traveled to the Goodman Theatre studio space in Chicago and then to Washington D.C.'s Arena Stage, where it won the Helen Hayes Award (Washington's equivalent of the Tony Award) as the Outstanding Non-Resident Production of 1990, beating out a visiting production of Les Miserables. In the same competition, one of Delta's featured actors won the award for Outstanding Actress, defeating fellow nominee Colleen Dewhurst.

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