By Katie Chambers
Welcome to NYWIFT, Candece Tarpley!
Candece Tarpley, of Sissipahaw/Tuscarora/Tsalagi descent, is a World Champion Powwow dancer, an actress and a poet-storyteller-playwright who has been writing since childhood.
Holding her heritage close, she’s been a featured performer nationwide, weaving her crafts with the patrons of the Public Library of Boulder Colorado; Middlebury College in Vermont; Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts; the Pequot Museum in Connecticut; the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Natural History in New York City, as well as other creative venues.
Candece spoke to us about how her Indigenous heritage influences her work, the response to her television series, and her next major projects.
Tell us about yourself – give us your elevator pitch!
Well, I’m not sure how to answer this first question. I like to hide so I not sure the elevator pitch is for me.
I am a person of many talents and l love them all. I am a passionate writer loving my stories, my plays, my audio works, and the scripts I write for my TV show. I try to expand on my works by using different forms of writing experimenting, lifting me higher.
I love my television show and want to take it higher. Example: me not having to get my own crew together or do my make-up and hair, or directing talent to correct places. Several mistakes have been out of my control when wearing these several hats.
You are a World Champion Powwow dancer – that’s so cool! How did you get involved in that side of competitive dance? And how does your Sissipahaw/Tuscarora/Tsalagi inspire and influence your other creative work?
This is my culture. It is who I am, and I’ve had to fight just to be here.
Now, there are two types of powwows. Traditional ones: where there is no money awarded for dancing or drumming. It’s like family and there is respect among us.
Modern powwows are different in that there are contests for drumming and dancing. Many people make their living through this method now, traveling all over the world dancing and selling their merchandise.
I am grateful to be a world champion dancer. It makes me feel proud and connects me with my ancestors. I love my Indigenous dancing and work hard at designing my regalia (dress attire) for shows and contests. I thrill to hear a great drum group spree me on as I become one with the music. It’s really wonderful to feel so good! I hope to do this the rest of my life. It gives me energy to create other projects and move forward.
Tell us about the series you host, Pathways to the Dream Lodge Café.
My show Pathways to the Dream Lodge Café is about Indigenous people and the arts. The shows are mainly about East Coast peoples.
Most people don’t think or know Indigenous people still exist. Some of my friends have told me how people react to them when asked who they are. So, I thought it good to bring forth some good information.
I’ve been told my shows are informative and I appreciate [that] and feel I’m going down the right path. I also incorporate the other artforms and they include Indigenous works too.
You have performed nationwide as a dancer, actor, and storyteller/poet. What has been your favorite career moment to date?
My favorite career moment was when I worked with Eli Wallach twice, once on 100 Centre Street and the other on Max Bickford.
I talked with Eli about his film Baby Doll, which I love. He told me some of the problems they had in the South at that time.
I also loved seeing him and Sidney Lumet work together on 100 Centre Street. Sitting in the courtroom, I was amazed to see the two of them so relaxed and talking about the scene.
I also worked with Sidney Lumet on two of his other films, Gloria and Night falls over Manhattan. That too was wonderful.
What kinds of projects excite you?
What excites me? Doing any form of artwork. But doing something new and different I really appreciate! I liked working on a play with people from Siberian Theatre and their theater games. A good teaching. Just being in the artistic atmosphere with incredible artists excite me. The energy lifts you like a magic carpet ride!
What is the best advice you ever received? And the worst?
The best advice I was given is don’t let people stop you from doing what you love.
The worst advice is several people telling me not to move to New York City! I loved New York and knew it was for me. Amazingly, several years after I came here, those same people came to live here. Interesting to say the least.
What inspired you to join NYWIFT? How do you hope to engage with the organization?
[I entered and my project] won a place in 2023 NYWIFT Online Shorts Festival. I felt good. I have my TV show and I’ve worked in acting for many years. I thought entering another door would be exciting and good for changing times. It’s a poor mouse that has only one entrance.
And what is next for you?
My next major project is animation. I’ve wanted to do this for some time and with so many changes going on, this is the time to try it. I have lots of material to work with concerning this industry. I also want to publish the works I have. I’ll put more time into that too.
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