Today we’d like to introduce you to June Thiele.
June, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am indigenous to Alaska. As a child growing up in Alaska with my 4 siblings, our parents encouraged to play, and artistic interests. Looking back, I realize that we were lucky to be raised in our Native ways. My Athabascan mother would take us to the village every summer to live, catch and smoke salmon in our traditional ways, and my Yupik father would teach us how to hunt and fish in his village. We were surrounded by culture and my culture is the most important legacy I have, so when I decided to dedicate my life to theatre and performance art, I didn’t know right away but knew after a short while that I needed to combine my love for theatre and my life as a Native person.
I came out as a queer person later in life. Developing what that means to me and how it’s perceived by others is a process and still ongoing. This process influences my life and the way I write. I write what I know. I’ve come to figure out through my storytelling and playwriting that people are interested in my journey. Writing is actually quite therapeutic for me and even if I am or not that stellar of a writer, I hold a different perspective. Native and queer narratives are important to me. Narratives that aren’t apart of the mainstream need to be present. That’s not to say I hold every perspective of Native or queer people. We’re all different and that in itself is important.
I’m very excited to share my voice through writing, but my biggest passion has always been acting. I was trained at Columbia College and I had the amazing experience of studying abroad at The Dublin Institute of Technology; theatre conservatory. I’ve been acting since middle school but wasn’t serious about it till I did my first production of The Wizard of Oz as a senior in high school, where I played Dorothy. I enjoy the development and study of a character and the process of doing a production.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
For the longest time, I tried denying who I was because I thought that was the only way to get to where I wanted to be. I forced myself to be ‘straight’ for what seemed like forever, so that I would be cast in roles I wanted to play or seen how I thought I wanted to be seen. I knew that there weren’t places in theatre for Native people or queer people for that matter, so I used my ability to pass in this world. I didn’t deny my native side, but I thought that the world of theatre and indigenous culture couldn’t meet. As an adult, I realize that accepting who I am as a Native person and a queer person in the theatre world makes me that much more powerful. Using these parts of me to reveal the honesty I have to share has furthered not only myself but my art. Combining all the things I love: theatre, indigenous culture, and my queer identity are very exciting for me. I’m writing what I know and I am finally seeing characters like me on stage.
Please tell us about June Thiele.
I am an actor, storyteller, and a budding playwright. I dabble in poetry, painting, indigenous arts, etc. First and foremost, I am an actor. Acting is one passion in my life that really hasn’t teetered. I do really love writing because it allows for narratives that I want to see, and voices I want heard to be viewed by a larger audience. Not only do I want the work I create to influence and make my audiences think about something that maybe they haven’t thought about, but I want my work to inspire and empower my communities. I am most proud of the small impact that my writing and storytelling have brought to my theatre community and Native community.
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite, most vivid memories of my childhood are in my village. The day we would arrive in the summer. You fly into the small dirt airport. The wind is gusting a little, tilting the plane and making a wobbly landing. You can spot my Chada (grandpa) on the four-wheel to pick us up. We’d settle in for the bumpy ride to my grandparent’s house; to our little house. There is so much green. It’s the most gorgeous place I’ve ever been. I feel balanced there. I haven’t been there in years and I feel the effects. This land connects me to my ancestors and my culture. It is beyond anything I’ve ever felt.
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