NANYEHI-The Story of Nancy Ward

Music & Lyrics by Becky Hobbs
Book by Nick Sweet & Becky Hobbs

For more info or to license this musical, Contact us.
Professionally recorded CD available. for accompaniment.
Written music for 7 instruments and Piano/Vocal are also available.


We have had 7 productions so far: Hartwell, GA in 2012 (6 shows), Tahlequah, OK in 2013 (4 shows), Tulsa, OK in Aug. 2014 (3 shows), Kingsport, TN in Oct. 2014 (8 shows), Tulsa, OK in 2015 (3 shows), Greenville, TX in April 2016 (9 shows), and back in Tulsa in Nov. 2016 (2 shows). Our next shows take us back to Kingsport, TN for shows Oct. 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29, 2017!


Becky Hobbs's and Nick Sweet's interpretive story of Nanyehi is a world-class musical production. As one of her descendants, the story of Nancy Ward is both inspirational and deeply personal to me. The stirring compositions, riveting dialogue and modern choreography make this a must-see piece of musical theater. Cherokee Nation history enthusiasts and theater fans will be mesmerized with Becky’s wonderful creation.
- Bill John Baker, Principal Chief, Cherokee Nation, Tahlequah, OK

While Nancy Ward's history is intriguing and the basis for an exciting musical and Becky Hobbs original songs tell a haunting story, the 'cry for peace' that Ward made during the Revolutionary War era is one that still resonates today.
- D. Ray Smith, The Oak Ridger, Oak Ridge, TN.

NANYEHI set several attendance records in Kingsport, TN during it’s 2014 run: the single night attendance record, the combined attendance record for any Kingsport Theatre Guild production in 67 years, and a new record for the venue, The Kingsport Renaissance Arts Center & Theatre, which also hosts professional touring acts.
- Tina Radtke, Executive Director, Kingsport Theatre Guild

As a person who loves Broadway plays, attending 5-6 per year, I was somewhat reluctant to attend a local play in our small town. Nanyehi-Beloved Woman of the Cherokee was absolutely outstanding. Had I not gone to the last performance I would certainly have gone a second time. Please let me know when this play is in our area again and I will be sure a group of us attend. Thanks for bringing the play to Kingsport and the locals were truly outstanding in their roles.
- Dennis Phillips, Mayor of Kingsport, TN

The Kingsport production of “Nanyehi” exceeded all of our expectations. The cast and audience fell in love with the characters, story and beautiful music. We were pleased to host over 1,500 of our community and visitors and received many, many compliments on behalf of the production. Everyone loved it!
- Bonnie Macdonald, Director of Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts

Nanyehi: The Continued Evolution

It has been two years since I first saw the musical Nanyehi, written by Becky Hobbs and Nick Sweet. The musical is based on the story of the last Cherokee ghigau, Nanyehi (also known as Nancy Ward). She lived from about 1738 to about 1822. I have a particular interest in this woman because she was my sixth great grandmother. Nanyehi was caught between the worlds of Europeans and Cherokees, and between peace and war. She was a war heroine who, all of her life, led the way to peace. Of course, for the Cherokees, neither the path of war nor of peace ultimately worked; both paths led to the United States conquering the Cherokee. We remain a conquered nation today.

The first set of performances was supported by the Eastern Band of the Cherokees in Hartwell, Georgia in 2012. The second set was sponsored by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in Tahlequah in 2013. This was where I first saw it. There were other performances in 2014: in Tulsa, Oklahoma (I saw this one), and Kingsport, Tennessee. The fifth set of performances has just ended in Tulsa, where I saw it last night.

In 2013, I wrote rapturously about this musical in this blog. After seeing it three times my opinion remains unchanged. Each time it is performed (with Michelle Honaker as Nanyehi and Travis Fite as Tsiyu Gansini) it gets better and better in every way. Becky and Nick have added a couple of new musical pieces since the first performance, which are among the best: “Love Doesn’t Come in Colors” and “War or Peace.” These pieces focus on some of the most important themes: the warrior Tsiyu Gansini is displeased with his peaceful cousin Nanyehi marrying a white man (Bryant Ward, my sixth great grandfather) or with her championing of the way of peace. You can find all information about this musical, including the stories and lyrics of all the pieces, at the website.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the evolution of this musical is that it has already become a classic.  There are already famous lines from it, such as when peace chief Attakullakulla says that “Cherokee women have always done and will always do whatever they want.” But most of all it has become a new tribal tradition. In its first performances, it needed support from the tribe; the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma paid for every Cherokee citizen who wanted to attend the 2013 Tahlequah performance. But last night the performance hall at the Cherokee Casino was totally filled. And what was the most common thing that I heard people talking about after the performance? The most common words were “Aren’t you glad you came?” and “Wasn’t that good?” and “See you again next year right here.”

The story of Nanyehi is only sparsely documented in books. Search for “Nancy Ward” on Amazon and you find only old books or children’s books or chapters within other books. I believe it is time that someone write a really good popular book about this astonishing woman who was important not only in Cherokee but in American history. Actually, I have a manuscript that I hope to market very soon. The words at the end of the theme song of the musical are “You will be heard!” but most people have never heard of Nancy Ward. I hope that my future writing, and the continued success of Becky and Nick’s musical, will fix this problem.

The issues faced by Nancy Ward and her warrior cousin are still with us today. Does war lead to peace, as Tsiyu Gansini said, or must we pursue peace as our primary goal, as Nanyehi said? This exact same story is going on in the Middle East today.

Another important aspect of the story of Nancy Ward is what some writers have called the sacred feminine. Civilization and organized religion have enforced male domination and crushed women into a subservient role. For example…well, look at all of recorded history. And look at the world today. But in many tribal societies, including the Cherokees, women often had important positions of leadership. As ghigau, Nanyehi could decide the fates of war captives. Primitive Christianity, when the church first started, was dismissed by outsiders as a religion for women and slaves. But eventually women lost their power: the church became entirely patriarchal, and in the early nineteenth century the Cherokee Nation reorganized itself to imitate American governance. Once the Cherokee Nation had a constitution, beginning in New Echota in 1827 (now in Georgia), only men could vote or hold office. The sacred feminine of nurture and peace was lost in the Cherokees just as in almost all other tribes, nations, and institutions. In a world that is still largely patriarchal, Nanyehi (Nancy Ward) remains a heroine worthy of our admiration. She was not perfect, but who was?

You don’t have to be Cherokee to be totally swept away by the story of Nancy Ward. If any of you ever get the chance to see the musical, don’t miss it! Hey you people in California, get on a plane and come back here next year to see it! Watch for information on the website. It just might restore a little faith that humanity has some goodness left in it.
- Dr. Stanley Rice, Professor of Biological Sciences at Southeastern Oklahoma State University

An enthralling epic saga of war and peace unfolds on the stage of Greenville's Texan Theater. The inspiring "Nanyehi-The Story of Nancy Ward" goes from jolly games of stickball to harsh, bloody battles and from romance to tragedy.
Utilizing the evocative vocals and drums of Native American culture along with the folk music and ballads of early American settlers, composer, playwright and musical director Becky Hobbs' composition presents Nanyehi's remarkable life in a superb musical drama. Introduced in the overture, the haunting theme "Nanyehi" recurs throughout the production
.
- Alice Reese, The Harold-Banner, Greenville, Texas

ABOUT NANCY WARD (NANYEHI)

NANYEHI – The Story of Nancy Ward is based on the life of Becky’s 5th-great grandmother, Nancy Ward, Beloved Woman of the Cherokee, who was first honored as a Cherokee war woman, then as a peacemaker in the 1700’s. She was first named Nanyehi, and later known as Nancy Ward. The musical chronicles her life (1738-1822), her struggles, her loves, her family. To read more about Nancy Ward’s life, visit the Association of the Descendants of Nancy Ward web site: www.nancyward.org

Video Links:


Filmmaker Holly Rice put this together from our Greenville, TX shows - Apr. 2016.

Becky talks about her music career and "Nanyehi – The Story of Nancy Ward" on Osiyo TV.

Becky is interviewed by Sam Jones at Rogers State University, Claremore, OK.

NANYEHI- Inside Look, Cherokee Nation Businesses - Aug. 2014

Channel 6 News Tulsa - Aug. 2013