Dell’Arte International (DAI) and the Wiyot Tribe will collaborate to create an original theatre work based on the art and life of nationally recognized contemporary artist Rick Bartow (1946-2016), a painter, sculptor, musician, Vietnam veteran and descendant of the Mad River Band of the Wiyot Tribe.


Mr.Bartow's works have been displayed in places as varied as the Smithsonian and the White House to corporate offices and local museums. His 2015 monograph, “Rick Bartow:  Things You Know But Cannot Explain” was published to coincide with a retrospective exhibit at the Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon, which traveled nationally. Wiyot Tribal Chair Ted Hernandez became very close to Mr. Bartow when he reconnected with the Tribe late in life, saying he found meaning and a sense of place at the Wiyot Reservation in Table Bluff.  Tribal Administrator Michelle Vassel characterized Mr. Bartow’s journey as “he got lost – like a lot of Wiyot people – and then he came home when he found us.” Mr. Bartow’s son, Booker Bartow, has stated that it would be an honor to have a theatrical performance created about his father and his father’s work. 

This collaboration will mark the 4th year of an extraordinary partnership between the Wiyot Tribe and DAI which is located in Blue Lake, Ca., along the Mad River, on unceded Wiyot ancestral territory. Through the cultural generosity of the Tribe, Dell'Arte now has signage located around it's historic building in the Wiyot language and has partnered with the Tribe's afterschool program, Tsek Houdagh, to create two shadow plays with tribal youth based on traditional stories and incorporating cultural knowledge and Wiyot language learning.

The shared goal of this partnership has been to bring a more visible cultural tribal presence to this area of Wiyot ancestral territory. With this new project, DAI and the Wiyot Tribe hope to bring additional awareness of Wiyot heritage, contemporary and traditional, to all communities in the Humboldt Bay Area.


The core Artistic Team will engage in a series of workshops, community conversations, and one-on-one interviews with Wiyot Tribal members as well as other prominent Native American artists in Humboldt and Trinity Counties.  Other engagement activities include:  dialogues with the tribal council, workshops for tribal youth, theatre performance training for specific interested individuals from the tribe, interviews with Elders, and several in-progress showings of material at Tribal headquarters. The Artistic Team will develop and rehearse creative structures based on input and feedback generating from these activities and in conversation with the community Advisory Group.

In addition, this website serves as a platform for the community to engage in the creative process. By logging in, anyone can add their comments and perspectives to given themes identified by the Artistic Team and Advisory Group (please explore the site further and add your thoughts!)


Dell’Arte International will produce the culminating performance entitled “Things You Know But Cannot Explain,” an original, site-specific, spectacle piece of theatre with a world premiere at Dell’Arte’s 30th annual Mad River Festival in Blue Lake (2020). The show will also be performed at the Wiyot Tribe’s Table Bluff Reservation, and the county seat of Eureka in association with Blue Ox Veteran’s Program.

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this project is made possible by support from:
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© 2020 by Zuzka Sabata