By Alex Miller
Saskia Norman is a little girl from Austria with big dreams, and an abiding love for her father. Even at age four, she knows she wants to be an actor “just like you, Dad.” Of course, her father is a practical man who warns her about the hardships of an actor’s life; many of his friends have struggled to find work and turned to alcohol. Dreams can eclipse reality. But as Saskia promises, “I’ve always been a very determined person.”
Ms. Norman’s portrayal of her childhood self is charming. When she holds hands with a boy in her class, she imagines they are married. It’s humorous, because most of my childhood relationships began and ended the same way.
Saskia and her father play a version of Cowboys and Indians together, hence the title. After each game, he would coo something sweet to her, and take her in his arms.
When she is thirteen, they both come down with bronchitis. She quickly recovers, but her father spends a long stretch of time in the intensive care unit of the hospital. Her mother instructs Saskia and her sister to be strong, because “your father is sicker than we thought.” As the family watches the man they’ve come to see as a strong Buffalo Bill figure wither away, Saskia is especially wounded—her hero has become vulnerable.
Eventually, he seems to recover. Coincidentally, on the same day, Saskia gets her first period. In a hilariously awkward scene, she asks her teacher to excuse her from school because of cramps. She expects her mother to pick her up, but becomes even more mortified when her father arrives.
“So, uh…hem!” Her father grips the steering wheel, clumsily slapping it and drumming his fingers against it. “You’re a woman now!” His exclamation is one for the ages. She nods and blushes. The next day, her father passes away. Apparently, it was cancer.
Ms. Norman reflects that she got her courage from her father. She assures us: “He told me to be strong, and I’ve kept that promise. No matter what, I never let the world get me down.”
For a ten-minute play, that’s a lot to cover. Naturally, it feels rushed, and I look forward for Ms. Norman to expand this heartfelt memorial to her father, and to fill it with the unique detail of their special bond.
“Little Indian Girl and Buffalo Bill”
Written and Performed by Saskia Norman
Oct. 29 at 7:30pm
Director: Debra DeLiso
Director’s Assistant: Sabine Sutterlüti
Board Operator: Lilly Dennis
Stage Manager: Marissa Riggs
Tech Assistant: Hilary Piech
Show image by Christian Ariel Heredia
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
ALEX MILLER, a Chicago native, has been a professional writer and editor for 6 years. He joined the Navy in 2004, and served for four years in such places as Haiti, Iraq, and Somalia. He has a degree in Public Engagement from The New School, and has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Forbes, The New York Daily News, and QZ, among others. He lives in Harlem.