Monthly Archive for: ‘October, 2019’

“Sovereignty” at Marin Theatre Company

“Sovereignty” at Marin Theatre Company

Carol Benet

In a complicated story that should be part of every American History class  playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle tells of her Cherokee ancestors in “Sovereignty” at Marin Theatre Company.  Thanks to the extensive notes provided in the program book, on-line at and on bulletin boards in the theater’s lobby, the historical back story is available.  

Sarah Ridge Polson (Elizabeth Frances), after her fancy education at the Yale School of Law, returns to her Cherokee homeland.  She wants to pay back and we first see her in the cemetery where her ancestors are buried.  She gathers  facts about her family and the Cherokee Nations from the early 19th century. The plot switches from then to the present time.  

The result is a disjointed and confusing story that is both historical and fictional that goes from the early 19th century to the life and difficulties between Sarah and her husband Ben (Graig Marker).  Throughout there are real treaties and legislation discussed.  A great divide between two factions of the Cherokee Nation developed when the government wanted to sell off Cherokee land.  And this divide is still contentious.  The Ross members, both past and present played by Jake Waid, and the Ridge faction  (Robert L. Mesa) and (Andrew Roa) feuded  over the signing of the Treaty of New Echota  where the tribe gave up their lands in Georgia.   Some historians and critics claim that this treaty led to the infamous “Trail of Tears” where soldiers marched thousands of Cherokees at gun-point for 850 miles in the winter of 1838 to their new territory. 

This followed President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act in 1830 and Craig Marker as Jackson quotes his famous statement after the Supreme Court’s decision under John Marshall stating that the the Cherokee Nation was sovereign over their own lands.  To this Jackson angrily responded “John Marshall made his decision.  Let him enforce it.”   

The question of Indian women’s rights is also forefront in the script with the VAWA, Violence Against Women Act, still being held up in Congress with the House voting for it and the Republicans in the Senate saying nay.  The statistics of missing and raped Native American Women is shocking and certainly the lawyer Sarah, a victim of spousal  abuse, fights on for passage of the Act.

“Sovreignty” is a story to retell and retell, especially now since our current president Donald Trump admires Jackson above all and  in Trump’s own agenda of removing immigrant, he seems to be channeling one of the most controversial presidents of America.  It is interesting that right now the spotlight is also on Jackson at the Custom Made Theatre in San Francisco where the comedy “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” ( plays through October 27, 2019.  

Be prepared for a sad history lesson with “Sovereignty”.  It’s best to read up on the issues before attending the play because the story is so complex.  Thanks to the brilliant dramaturge of the Marin Theatre Company Laura A. Brueckner as well as the playwright Nagle for supplying us with background material in the program book and on-line.

Jasson Minadakis, Artistic Director of MTC  and director of this production has a job on his hands with the challenging plot of “Sovereignty”.  He is to be commended for bringing it to the Marin Theatre Company.  It runs through October 20, 2019. of 415 388 5208.  


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