Rhiana Yazzie is a 2021 Lanford Wilson and 2020 Steinberg award winning, playwright, director, a filmmaker, and the Artistic Director of New Native Theatre, which she started in 2009 as a response to the lack of connection and professional opportunities between Twin Cities theaters and the Native community. She is a 2018 Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow and was recognized with a 2017 Sally Ordway Award for Vision and has been a Playwrights’ Center fellow multiple times (McKnight 2016/17 & Jerome 2006 & 2010) and Core Member. A Navajo Nation citizen (Ta’neeszahnii bashishchiin dóó Táchii’nii dashinalí), she’s seen her plays on stages from Alaska to Mexico including in Carnegie Hall’s collaboration with American Indian Community House & Eagle Project. She has a new co-commissioned play in the works with Long Wharf Theatre and Rattlestick Theater. She is developing her play Nancy, about Nancy Reagan and her intersection with Indian Country in the 80s, astrology, and her little known about Native heritage. It is the sequel to Queen Cleopatre and Princess Pocahontas, a joint commission from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Public Theater for American Revolutions: the United States History Cycle. Her first feature film, A WINTER LOVE (writer/dir/prod/actor) will premiere at festivals in 2021/22.
Her non-profit company, New Native Theatre, based in the Twin Cities is a new way of looking at, thinking about, and staging Native American stories. Notable recent productions include the 2020 global indigenous online festival, Good Medicine, Native Man the Musical which was praised by the Twin Cities’ local Native American newspaper, The Circle News, “The paradigm of Native American manhood shifted with New Native Theatre’s production.” It was followed up by Native Woman the Musical. When New Native Theatre celebrated its Tenth Anniversary Season they premiered six mainstage plays, five of which were world premieres.
Rhiana’s work in film includes being story editor for Babe Nation Films’ upcoming feature, The Way Out. She production coordinated for Dolly Well’s Good Posture (Tribeca 2019) and Musa Syeed’s, A Stray (SXSW 2016; MSP Int’l Film Festival “Best MN-Made Narrative Feature 2016”). Rhiana is a graduate of the Masters of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California where she had the pleasure to produce events that included lectures and concerts by Madeleine Albright, Herbie Hancock, Spaulding Grey, Paula Vogel, and Stephen Hawking.
She has been passionate about working with the Barbara Schneider Foundation, an organization dedicated to training law enforcement and health care professionals about the process of recognizing and de-escalating people in a mental health crisis.
She was a playwright in residence at the William Inge Center in Independence, Kansas, and has been in residence at the MacDowell Colony where she worked on new screenplays.
Rhiana has written for young audiences; her play Chile Pod, about a Mixtec girl, commissioned by La Jolla Playhouse, toured to 18,000 youth in Southern California schools and communities. She has been a resident at the biennial Bonderman National Theatre for Youth Symposium and The Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices.
She is the three time winner of the Native Radio Theatre annual new play contest; her radio play The Best Place To Grow Pumpkins received an Honorable Mention at the ImagiNative Film Festival in Toronto for Best Radio.
A few of Rhiana’s plays are published online in university libraries across the country through Alexander Street Press.
A few of her other plays include Asdzani Shash: The Woman Who Turned into a Bear (finalist in the 2005 Bay Area Playwrights Festival; 1st annual Two Worlds Festival Native American Theatre, 2008); The Long Flight (translated into Spanish and pres the 30th World Congress of the International Theatre Institute – UNESCO in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico; and a 2002 finalist for the Princess Grace Playwriting Award); This Land Had Seen War Before was published in a 2008 anthology, BIRTHED FROM SCORCHED HEARTS: WOMEN RESPOND TO WAR, edited by MariJo Moore that includes contributions from Amy Goodman, Paula Gunn Allen, and Matilde Urrutia.