August 22, 2013
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — A musical chronicling the life of Cherokee peace leader Nancy Ward will be featured as part of the 61st Annual Cherokee National Holiday, with free showings at the Northeastern State University Center for Performing Arts on Aug. 27, 30 and 31.
“Nanyehi: Beloved Woman of the Cherokee” features original music written by Cherokee citizen and Ward descendent Becky Hobbs, originally of Bartlesville. Hobbs, who wrote the song "Angels Among Us" recorded by Alabama, is also the co-playwright and musical director for the production, which aims to be more character driven than a historical account.
“We have tried to keep all of the historical facts authentic from as much as we know about Nancy Ward’s life, yet we wanted to go deeper and present her as a real human being who had emotions,” Hobbs said. “The most important thing is getting Nancy Ward’s message of peace out to today’s world.”
The musical started in the early ‘90s as an album of songs written in Ward’s honor. When Hobbs met playwright and director Nick Sweet in 2007, they began a collaboration to turn the music into a musical.
“Nanyehi” will recount stories from Ward’s life, beginning with her birth and leading into events such as her involvement in the battle of Taliwa in 1755 and her war protests during the American Revolution, as well as personal conflicts with her war-minded cousin Dragging Canoe.
The Cherokee National Holiday will be the musical’s second series of showings. It originally debuted in Georgia and headlines lead actress Michelle Honaker, 25, of New York, portraying Ward.
Cherokee citizen Barbara McAlister is a native of Muskogee with a long career in musical theatre and opera. She plays the role of the Nunnehi grandmother and performs on group songs.
“I’m a great admirer of Becky’s music,” McAlister said. “I’ve really fallen in love with her style and singing, with her beautiful melodies. I think this show is going to move many people to tears.”