Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 15
- Grade: 10
Dead White Writer on the Floor uses two literary conventions?theatre of the absurd and mystery novels?to create one of the funniest and thought-provoking plays ever about identity politics. In Act One, six “savages”; noble, innocent, ignorant, fearless, wise and gay, respectively; find themselves in a locked room with the body of a white writer, which they stash in a closet. None of them can figure out how he died or which of them might have killed him. They realize as they point fingers at each other, however, that they are all profoundly unhappy with their lives as they’ve been constructed over the past four hundred years: Old Lodge Skins wants to know what it feels like to be a young man; Billy Jack wonders what spreading healing rather than pain would feel like; Injun Joe is desperate for an education; Kills Many Enemies is exhausted by his deadly seriousness and yearns for a sense of humour; Pocahontas seeks to feel respected as a woman rather than lusted after as a child sex object; and Tonto wants to “come out of the canyon” and be the one wearing the mask for a change. Gradually, they figure out that the latest iteration of Gutenberg’s invention buzzing like a beehive on the dead writer’s desk is actually a dream-catcher, which they can use to rewrite their lives in the image of their own inner beings.
Imagine their surprise when they reappear in the same locked room in Act Two as Mike, Jim, Bill, John, Sally and Fred?attending an A.A. meeting and bickering among themselves about reserve politics, unmanageable family relationships and whether Bingo has a place in their new air-conditioned casino?and realize the white writer must still be very much alive in their community; his body in the closet is still warm!
About the author
Drew Hayden Taylor has done many things, most of which he is proud of. An Ojibway from the Curve Lake First Nations in Ontario, he has worn many hats in his literary career, from performing stand-up comedy at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., to being Artistic Director of Canada’s premiere Native theatre company, Native Earth Performing Arts. He has been an award-winning playwright (with over 70 productions of his work), a journalist/columnist (appearing regularly in several Canadian NEWSpapers and magazines), short-story writer, novelist, television scriptwriter, and has worked on over 17 documentaries exploring the Native experience. Most notably, he wrote and directed REDSKINS, TRICKSTERS AND PUPPY STEW, a documentary on Native humour for the National Film Board of Canada.
Dead White Writer on the FloorThe main characters in this play are six First Nations stereotypes: Tonto (the Sidekick), Injun Joe and Billy Jack (the Villain and the Hero), Old Lodgeskins (the Wise Elder), Pocahontas (the Submissive Native Woman), and Kills Many Enemies (the Brave Warrior). They find themselves in an office that presumably belongs to the white writer lying dead on the floor. Aware that the writer has cast them as stereotypes, they rewrite the screenplay so that they can live the lives of their dreams. In Act 2 they reappear as contemporary Native characters who experience that the ideal life is an illusion.
Hayden Taylor has written numerous plays, short stories, essays, columns and scripts. His novel Motorcycles and Sweetgrass was nominated in 2010 for the Governor General’s Award for fiction.
Caution: Use of the term “Indian.”
Source: The Association of Book Publishers of BC. Canadian Aboriginal Books for Schools. 2011-2012.
Other titles by Drew Hayden Taylor
Indigenous Views on the Future
Richard Wagamese Selected
What Comes from Spirit
Motorcycles & Sweetgrass
Penguin Modern Classics Edition
Chasing Painted Horses
Sir John A.
Acts of a Gentrified Ojibway Rebellion
Take Us to Your Chief
And Other Stories