A consortium of German developers shows up on the fictional Otter Lake Reserve with a seemingly irresistible offer to improve the local economy: the creation of “Ojibway World,” a Native theme park designed to attract European tourists, causing hilarious personal and political divisions within the local community.
The Berlin Blues concludes Drew Hayden Taylor’s Blues quartet, showcasing contemporary stereotypes of First Nations people, including a fair number that originate from Indigenous communities themselves, to the often outraged delight of his international audiences.
Yet Europeans and other ethnic groups are not exempt from Taylor’s incisive but good-humoured caricatures. Central to the motivation of these German developers are the hugely successful and best-selling adventure novels of the German author Karl May, whose work Adolf Hitler recommended as “good wholesome reading for all ages.” Written in the early twentieth century, they popularized Rousseau’s image of Indigenous peoples as “Noble Savages” among European, and especially German youth, and have led to the creation of Karl May theme parks all over central Europe, where adult tourists can shed their inhibitions and play Cowboys and Indians with a seriousness as ridiculous as it is abandoned. This is identity politics stripped of its politically correct hyper-seriousness and dramatized to its absurd and ultimately hilarious conclusion.
The Berlin Blues premiered in Los Angeles at Native Voices in February 2007, touring to New York (at the Museum of the American Indian), and then to the museum in Washington D.C. the following May, followed by a reading tour in Germany. In Canada it was produced at Magnus Theatre in Thunder Bay in January 2008, and then by Persephone Theatre in Saskatoon.