"It all works–Winter Man employs the cool hand of technique. Audience members leave the theater moved and troubled precisely because they have been made to see clearly"
- The New York Times (Bernard Holland)
Winter Man is an original work of music-theater created by writer/composer Andy Teirstein in collaboration with Cheyenne poet Lance Henson. The show is set in America’s Southwest in the years 1864-68. It was a time when Native Americans and white settlers, each with their own dreams for the future, clashed, and a small village of Cheyennes under peace chief Black Kettle was massacred on the Washita River. Woven into this backdrop is the story of Dutch Bill Griffenstein, a Jewish fur trader who lived with the Cheyenne and married into the tribe.
Winter Man presents a troubling portrait of America during a violent era often reduced to romanticized stereotypes. The character of Dutch Bill Griffenstein is a witness and survivor of tragedy. Through his eyes we see the story move from events at Sand Creek into hearings in Washington that paved the way for the massacre four years later at Washita. This was also a period when the United States was experiencing an increase in Jewish immigration. Many went west. As outsiders themselves, they often interacted with Native Americans, and in a few instances served as intermediaries between Native Americans and whites. The story of Winter Man illuminates the meeting of these two ritual cultures against the backdrop of an expansionist American society bent on domination at any cost. Winter Man weaves a rich, symbolic tale of startling beauty and emotional power. The show received a limited production in 1995 at La MaMa Theater in New York, and received an NEA Award.
“I make my living as a poet. I consider the poet’s calling to be a part of the warrior’s ethic. The Cheyenne are an ancient people. We are informed by thousands of years of ritual life. The Winter Man project is a story from the progression of my people. “
- Lance Henson, Cheyenne Poet
“…Here were photographs of Jewish mountain men, fur traders, trappers, and scouts, often having intermarried with the tribes. As outsiders themselves, they were quicker to mingle with the Indians. Later, when Lance invited me to the Sundance ceremony, I lit the Shabbat candles in front of my tent while the drums of the ceremony were going and I wondered if a similar scene had occurred a hundred and fifty years earlier.”