Hanay Geiogamah

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Hanay Geiogamah (born 1945) is a playwright, TV and movie producer, artistic director, and a professor of theater. He was born in Oklahoma and is Native American of Kiowa/Delaware descent. He is considered the first widely known and successful Native American playwright and one of the few Native American producers in Hollywood.[1]

Geiogamah is the author of New Native American Drama: Three Plays (1980) published by the University of Oklahoma Press. He founded the American Indian Theatre Ensemble in New York City and formed the widely acclaimed American Indian Dance Theatre, which toured the world and performed on PBS' Great Performances. He served as co-producer for the TBS multimedia project, The Native Americans: Behind the Legends, Beyond the Myths aired on TNT from 1993 to 1996.[2] He was co-executive producer for The Only Good Indian, a 2009 independent Western starring Cherokee actor Wes Studi.[3]

Geiogamah was a founder and co-director along with Jaye T. Darby, Ph.D. of "Project HOOP" (Honoring Our Origins and Peoples). Project HOOP is a national, multi-disciplinary initiative to establish Native theater as a subject of study and creative development in tribal colleges, Native communities, K-12 schools, and mainstream institutions.[4]

Geiogamah also serves on the National Film Preservation Board established in 1988 as an advisory body to the Librarian of Congress' National Film Registry.[5]

Currently, Geiogamah is a Professor in the School of Theater, Film and Television at the University of California, Los Angeles. From 2002 to 2009, he served as the director of the UCLA American Indian Studies Center.

Early years[edit]

Geiogamah was born in Lawton, Oklahoma to a Kiowa father and Delaware father. He graduated from Anadarko High School and studied journalism at the University of Oklahoma.[6] He later received his Master's degree in theater from Indiana University Bloomington. Following his graduation, he landed a job as the public affairs liaison for Commissioner of Indian Affairs Louis Bruce within the Bureau of Indian Affairs under President Richard Nixon.[7]

New York and theater[edit]

In late 1971, Geiogamah formed a theater group at the La MaMa Experimental Theater Club in New York City's Lower East Side. His first play was Body Indian in 1972 followed by Coon Cons Coyote and Foghorn.[8] The group produced his final play 49 in 1975. He founded the 16-member American Indian Theatre Ensemble in New York City in 1972, which was the first company to perform Native American plays for Indian people.

In 1987, the American Indian Dance Theatre, with Geiogamah as its director and Barbara Schwei as its producer, gave its first public performance. The 24-member dance troupe represented about 18 Indian nations and toured both nationally and internationally. The dancers wore a variety of traditional costumes, and the music was performed on traditional instruments made by the performers. The group made their New York City debut in 1989 in Manhattan's Joyce Theater.[9]

In 1990, the group was featured in PBS' Great Performances in the segment "The American Indian Dance Theater: Finding the Circle". The New York Times praised the group saying that the "hallmark of this company is its authenticity" with "serious artists conveying basic facts of their lives and cultures."[10] In 1993, the Dance Theater was produced as a segment for Dances for the New Generations for the PBS television series Great Performances/Dance in America. Barbara Schwei and Hanay Geiogamah were producers and Phil Lucas and Geiogamah were directors.

Los Angeles television and film[edit]

In 1993, Geiogamah served as a producer for the TNT production of The Native Americans: Behind The Legends, Beyond the Myths. The program was a series of fact-based historical dramas and publications. Geiogamah was co-producer on "The Broken Chain", which told the story of the Iroquois Confederacy during colonial times and also for "Geronimo" (executive produced by Norman Jewison).[11] In 1994, he was co-producer for "Lakota Woman: Return to Wounded Knee", and a year later he was again co-producer for "Tecumseh", the story of the Shawnee leader who fought against the United States during Tecumseh's War and the War of 1812. Geiogamah returned in 1996 as producer for TNT's "Crazy Horse", the Native American war leader of the Oglala Lakota.[12]

In 2010, Geiogamah joined co-host Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies for “Race in Hollywood: Native American Images on Film”, a series that looked at both positive and negative images of the Hollywood Indian.[13]


  1. ^ Angela Aleiss, "Hollywood is a Tough Business: A Profile of Producer Hanay Geiogamah," Indian Cinema Entertainment, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Summer 1994), pp. 2-3.
  2. ^ Angela Aleiss, "Making War Bonnets Old Hat: Native American Filmmakers are Forging into Hollywood with Projects Involving Real Human Concerns," Los Angeles Times, August 15, 1999.
  3. ^ See Hanay Geiogamah on IMDb
  4. ^ Project HOOP, UCLA American Indian Studies Center
  5. ^ Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board, Current Members of the Board at http://www.loc.gov/film/filmmemb.html
  6. ^ Jennifer McClinton-Temple and Alan R. Velie, Encyclopedia of American Indian Literature, Facts on File: 2009, p. 133.
  7. ^ Aleiss, Indian Cinema Entertainment, p. 3.
  8. ^ McCandlish Phillips, "Indian Theater Group: Strong Beginning", The New York Times, November 9, 1972, p. 56.
  9. ^ Jennifer Dunning, "American Indian Dancers Rekindle Their Heritage", The New York Times, September 17, 1989, p. H7.
  10. ^ John J. O'Connor, "American Indian Dancers and Sammy Davis Tribute", The New York Times, February 2, 1990, p. C30.
  11. ^ Patrick Kampert, "'Chain' Gives Native Americans Historical Due", Chicago Tribune, December 12, 1993.
  12. ^ Turner Classic Movies, "Filmography for Hanay Geiogamah".
  13. ^ Turner Classic Movies, "Native American Images on Film Introduction".

External links[edit]