My World: Kat Laveaux — playwright with purpose
At a kitchen table in Seattle, my family sat around a laptop screen watching actors from New Zealand perform a short play I’d written. Seeing my play streamed worldwide, I felt speechless. So much of my life up to this point was culminating in this moment.
I started SPU as an apparel design major, but that changed after a conversation with SPU professor and costume designer Sarah Mosher. She introduced me to the world of costuming, showing me how to follow my passion of creating art to inspire change. In spring 2017, I switched to the costume design and production major.
That same spring, I took a playwriting class. While I had written stories before, I hadn’t shared them with anyone, and had never written a play. Candace Vance, assistant professor of theatre, inspired me to write something I cared about. I began to write about my life — about being a Native American and my struggles with identity and racism. I wrote about being a member of a people whose voice has been silenced and forgotten by so many for so long.
I will be honest. My identity is based in two things: knowing Jesus and being Lakota and Salish.
I will be honest. My identity is based in two things: knowing Jesus and being Lakota and Salish. I grew up moving between Native American reservations in South Dakota, where my dad is from, and Montana, where my mom grew up. For the first 12 years of my life, I didn’t know what it was like to live off of the reservation. When we moved to Bozeman, Montana, I encountered overwhelming discrimination against my culture. The racism and ignorance I faced daily made me think it was a better idea to deny that I was Native American.
It took years for me to accept myself for who God made me to be, and many more for me to learn how to love myself. I’m still working on it. I came into myself slowly over the last few years here at SPU, both from encouragement from my professors and fellow students, and from challenging the ignorance and lack of representation I have found in many different ways on SPU’s campus and beyond. It can be difficult to speak when you are the only one from your culture in the room, and I will be the first to admit that I was afraid. For a long time, I allowed my voice to be silenced. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to writing. The first play I wrote generated a passion within me to create change through the voice I had denied for so long.
Many of the artists, theatre directors, and playwrights I spoke to told me that an indigenous culture’s survival will depend on this generation.
During my Creative Expression and Digital Media Internship in New Zealand this past summer, I worked with and learned from many different Maori people. Many of the artists, theatre directors, and playwrights I spoke to told me that an indigenous culture’s survival will depend on this generation. It is in the truth of what you choose to say when others are afraid or can’t say it themselves. The works they created inspired me to write another play, speaking to the struggle of my people against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which was performed at the Climate Change Theater event held at Massey University in October 2017.
Now, as I write this in between classes during my last quarter at SPU, finishing homework and working on lines and blocking for the play I have been cast in, I face the imminent question that will come after graduation: What do you want to do?
Five years ago, I would never have been able to answer this question. My world was too small, made so by my acceptance of the world as it was. If I hadn’t come to SPU, this would still be true. I wouldn’t have friends and colleagues on the other side of the world, as well as at home, who share the desire to engage cultures and change the world.
Art, theatre, and stories allow me to share experiences and inspire change in people. I didn’t set out five years ago to change the world. I set out to change myself, and honestly, that just might be the greatest change there is.