History / Inception
Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz is a Post-Punk Rock Opera about the fatal showdown between famed Sioux Leader Sitting Bull and Agent James “White Hair” McLaughlin at Standing Rock in the 1880s. The show chronicles Sitting Bull’s final years as a celebrity performer in the Wild West Show, his friendships with Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, and Catherine Weldon, his involvement with the Ghost Dance, and the struggle leading to his tragic end. This story has not been told until now, and has never been more relevant.
Shaman and Chief, Sitting Bull was also famous as a singer and songwriter among the Sioux, and used this gift of expression to rally and move his followers, so it was only natural that Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz was conceived as a musical, although in a non-traditional style that reflects the spirit of this man in our own troubled times. Anticipating strong protest singers to come, Sitting Bull spoke out on behalf of the disenfranchised, and continues to speak to us now, especially in light of the current standoff at Standing Rock over DAPL.
Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz was written by Nebraska Native John Templin Schliesser, and also produced by Schliesser and Kathleen Dougherty. It debuted at the Dragonfly Theater in Los Angeles in June 2016, and will be presented at the Johnny Carson Theatre at The Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, March 2nd-5th. There will be 5 performances held at the Carson Theater, 7:30pm every evening, with a 2:30 matinee on the 5th. The show features musical direction by Erik Paparozzi, and is directed by award-winning Director Lara Marsh. It stars Alan Tafoya as Sitting Bull, heading a mixed cast of local and Los Angeles-based performers. All ticket proceeds from this run of the show will be dedicated to Standing Rock.
Schliesser started working on the songs and script for Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz in his adopted home of Los Angeles during late 2013. The process has involved close collaborations with notable Sioux performers such as Mo Brings Plenty and Zahn McClarnon; and along with Foreman, musicians such as Erik Paparazzi (Cat Power), Guy Blakeslee (Entrance Band), Jared Samuel (Sean Lennon), Ben Lecourt (Emitt Rhodes), Joe Cardamone (Icarus Line), and Will Scott (Wolf Mother). Iggy Pop guitarist and producer James Williamson was a guiding force in the development of the music, helping assemble musicians, and providing input along the way.
On a visit to Lincoln after closing Sitting Bull’s Last Waltz in Los Angeles, Schliesser interested the Lied Center’s Bill Stephan in presenting it at the Johnny Carson Theater in March. Schliesser and Dougherty then approached Omaha-based award-winning Director Lara Marsh (Lost in Whole Foods, Operation Crucible) to direct, and began working with her to prepare the next iteration of the show, with the idea that the funds generated by ticket sales would be dedicated to Standing Rock.
Many things led Schliesser to the point of writing this: growing up in Nebraska on the edge of Lakota country hearing the tales of his indigenous grandfather; the impact Punk and Post-Punk music and style had on him as a teenager in Lincoln; his time at Berkeley studying film theory and the avant-garde; as well as his work for Amnesty International on behalf of political prisoners in Central America. But mainly it was Sitting Bull himself, a most uncommon hero with so much to teach us, and the events leading to his final resistance that have fascinated Schliesser since he was a child.take a listen