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CLOQUET, MINN. – Francesca Pedersen, an ensemble member for Spiderwoman Theater, had a moment of recognition after a recent welcome feast. The cast and other guests who had come to meet members of the long-running Indigenous theater company, were sitting around, sharing stories, and she saw the connection between what she is performing and the community that built it.

"I was like 'This is the piece!' This is literally what we are going to be doing on stage in a couple of days," she said. "Theater is just storytelling."

This is how the New York City-based company's productions are born: a layered style called "story-weaving," where personal and traditional stories are told, then strung together with bursts of color and pop culture and various art forms.

Spiderwoman Theater is in the middle of a Midwest Tour that is currently settled in this city 20 miles southwest of Duluth and adjacent to the Fond du Lac Reservation. In recent days there have been meetings, workshops and a ceremony, and there are runs of its most recent original production, "Misdemeanor Dream" at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at Cloquet High School, where professional tech workers are mingling with local students to share tips and tricks. Tickets are $25.

The tour then moves on to Minneapolis, where there will be a story-weaving workshop for Native theater artists by invitation on March 6 and a fabric workshop open to the public on Thursday. Both are at the Jungle Theater.

Its leaders came here to meet with local Indigenous artists and offered a 4-hour master class in creating this style of theater. One of the founders, Muriel Miguel, asked her team to clear the stage and make a circle of chairs beneath the spotlights — then bumped anyone who wasn't participating from the auditorium at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.

It went well, she said the next day.

"People were laughing and talking — and the way we put the stories together made them laugh," she said. "I'm aching. I wound everyone up."

Spiderwoman Theater was the mid-1970s invention of sisters Muriel and Gloria Miguel, who remain active with the company, and Lisa Mayo, who has since died. It was formed as a response to the current climate for Indigenous women.

It has also been shocking and edgy to mainstream audiences. Its first show, "Women in Violence," in the 1970s, included racist and sexist jokes. If members of the audience laughed, the cast members gave the laughter a look, then blew a raspberry. They threw pies at each other on stage and threatened to do the same to the audience. Detractors said "this isn't theater; you aren't actors," Muriel Miguel recalled.

More than 40 years later, it's still going and is believed to be the longest-running company of its kind in the country, if not the world. Gloria Miguel, 96, has a role in its current show. She plays an elder.

Darylina Powderface, a Stoney Nakoda and Blackfoot artist, was well into college when she first learned about Spiderwoman Theater from an Indigenous teaching assistant. In "Misdemeanor Dream," she has translated Blackfoot language and will sing.

"I feel, as someone who's gone to an institution that's predominantly white and colonial, Western perspective, I never really got the opportunity to bring in who I really am," she said. "When I did, those spaces weren't really meant for that."

"Misdemeanor Dream" is loosely inspired by Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," with an eye toward emphasizing personal stories of little people and fairies. Muriel Miguel's early contribution to this piece was a memory: How her mother always planted nasturtium in the backyard. Fairies, she said, like to sit on the leaves. The show grew from a series of similar stories, which includes several different Indigenous languages, and dancing, singing and video projections. It's driven by its narratives, not by a linear plot.

"It's the ingredients inside, it isn't the show," Muriel Miguel said. "It's liver pâté. I can't eat liver pâté by itself, I need something else. I need to put it on toast and make it something that I and other people can eat."