From left, Courtney Dilmore, Desiree Deschenie, Laretina Sandoval and Theandra Bryant act out one of the poems in their theatrical presentation of poetry
From left, Courtney Dilmore, Desiree Deschenie, Laretina Sandoval and Theandra Bryant act out one of the poems in their theatrical presentation of poetry on Wednesday in the Little Theater at San Juan College. (Haley Hansley / Courtesy of San Juan College)
Editor's note: This story and the accompanying art were produced by San Juan College students in a collaborative effort with The Daily Times.

FARMINGTON — The San Juan College Theater Department and its Native Literature program present an unusual theater experience this week, staging the works of 13 Navajo poets.

A free performance of Neeznáá dóó Táá', which translates to "Ten and Three," shows one time only at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Little Theater at San Juan College.

The show was developed and will be performed by students enrolled in two classes, Acting II and Native Literature. In less than a month, students translated the abstract into a living and breathing performance. The performance demonstrates the possibilities that can result when two well-established mediums meet.

San Juan College students act out one of the poems in their theatrical presentation of poetry on Wednesday in the Little Theater on campus.
San Juan College students act out one of the poems in their theatrical presentation of poetry on Wednesday in the Little Theater on campus. (J. Yazzie / Courtesy of San Juan College)

The poems range from commentary on contemporary Native society, to the dissection of words within sentences, to the clash of cosmologies between Albert Einstein and the Hopi people he once visited. The variety of the pieces reflects the variety of voices within this geographical area, and yet they are familiar at the same time.

Students have found the experience challenging from both sides: many in the Native Literature class had never performed on stage, while many of the acting class students had never read Navajo literature before. Most, if not all, of the students have stepped out of their comfort zones. However, both classes have been able to speak from their own expertise and have assisted each other in developing the final performance.

The show includes some multi-media pieces, some dramatic scenes, some choral readings, and some pieces with dramatic movement. Many of the poems include significant passages in the Navajo language.

College instructors Mollie Mook-Fiddler and Michael Thompson helped guide the process.

"I know of no other tribe with so many accomplished poets," Thompson said. "One of our main goals was to showcase the incredible talent of Navajo writers."

Seating will be limited, and there will be one show only.