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Cathy Tagnak Rexford Receives NTC’s Stavis Playwright Award

The annual award recognizes an outstanding emerging playwright with a $2,000 honorarium and a public reading of their play.

NEW YORK CITY: Playwright Cathy Tagnak Rexford has been selected as this year’s National Theatre Conference (NTC) Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwright Award winner, making her the first Native American playwright to receive the honor.

Rexford will be awarded an honorarium of $2,000 for her play Cold Case at the December 2022 NTC annual meeting. The meeting will also feature a reading of Cold Case, with a talkback about the play and Rexford’s career to follow. Actors DeLanna Studi and Muriel Miguel will perform the leading roles. Rexford was selected out by the National Theatre Conference’s Stavis Committee, who were drawn to the power and humanity of Rexford’s characters, and to a story of missing and murdered Indigenous women and their families, who are often unrepresented in the theatre.

“She shares her unique perspective as an Alaska Native writer, a point of view that is so rarely seen on this country’s stages,” said Leslie Ishi, artistic director of Perseverance Theatre, who will direct the NTC reading, said in a statement. “Cathy approaches storytelling with a level of thoughtfulness, courage, and compassion that inspires empathy and deep emotional response, and she is unafraid to tackle, head on, the most pressing issues that Native/Indigenous communities face.” 

Cold Case depicts the heartbreaking story of a woman in rural Alaska as she fights to recover her aunt’s body from an Anchorage morgue. The unusual structure and simplicity of writing and the play’s unique representation of life in an off-road Alaska Native village brings home the claustrophobia of being smothered, not just by a blizzard but by the bureaucracy and circumlocution of a government intent on dismantling village life. 

Rexford is a playwright, poet, and fiction writer from Anchorage. She is of he is of Iñupiaq, French, German, and English descent. Other works include The Namesake, Land Claims, and Whale Song. The Namesake was selected by Native Voices at the Autry for their First Look Series in 2008. This fall, Rexford will serve as producer for the HBO series True Detective: Night Country, starring Jodie Foster and Kali Reis.

Rexford holds an M.F.A. from the University of British Columbia in creative writing and theatre, a BA from Evergreen State College in Native American studies, and a B.F.A. with honors from the Institute of American Indian Arts in creative writing. 

The National Theatre Conference (NTC) is an organization founded in 1925 that meets annually in New York to discuss relevant issues in today’s theatre community and to celebrate outstanding achievement in the American theatre.

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