“Even entering the performance space is not a typical experience,” Timothy White Eagle said, describing his show “The Indigo Room,” coming to UtahPresents Nov. 9-11.
The performance, described as “an immersive ritualistic theater and installation work,” explores one of the oldest and most universal myths: a hero being swallowed alive and then returned transformed.
White Eagle has roots in Utah, graduating from the University of Utah Department of Theatre in 1990. He remembers his time in Utah with mixed feelings, citing the great education he received on campus but also the very conservative community here at the time. As an out-and-proud gay artist looking to find his creative voice, he persevered through formative trials. He became a fervent advocate for the rights of fellow LGBTQ people, joining other students in protests against organizations promoting conversion therapy.
Adopted and raised by a white family, White Eagle had little opportunity to learn about or connect with his Native American heritage as a youth. After a time working in experimental theatre companies in Seattle, he met a native elder and then, White Eagle said, “life really flipped.” The elder took him under his wing, leading him on a journey to connect to his Indigenous roots. He became interested in rituals and ceremonies, mixing those with his experimental theatre experience, to start creating new works of his own.
He returned to Utah many years later as the leader of the Dandy Minions, a group of artists that serve as audience guides in Taylor Mac’s epic production of “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music” at UtahPresents. White Eagle also performed in Mac’s 24-hour premiere of the work in New York City, and then toured with the company, wrangling local groups of Minions for each tour performance.
When the pandemic abruptly shuttered live performances, he was still touring with Mac, but had also begun working with a group of collaborators on a new show, “The Violet Symphony.”
“We started asking ourselves, what is the experience we want to have when this is over?” White Eagle said. “What is the ritual, what are we supposed to have gained? And what resulted from those discussions became ‘The Indigo Room,’ about time in isolation and the importance of community.”
Audiences can expect the unexpected when attending the performances. They can also expect to be fully immersed. “When you’re coming into ritual space, you have to have a buy-in,” White Eagle explained. “You have to put some energy into it. And the experience entering the space becomes more relevant as the show proceeds.”
Tickets are limited, and opening night is already sold out. Tickets are still available for the Nov. 10-11 performances at utahpresents.org.