By Jesse Bertel

Bill Nagel, who is known as Billy Reno, the energetic leader of The Billy Reno Band, is also an award-winning playwright and director. Recently, Nagel submitted two plays to Suze’s Prescott Center for the Arts (PCA) New Works Festival and both were selected for Reader’s Theater performances.

His play, Red Fish, won the festival and is being given a full production in PCA’s new Studio Theater. Red Fish is scheduled for two shows, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5-6.

Nagel spoke with Across the Street ahead of the performances. The following interview was edited for length and clarity.

What inspired you to write this story?

I wrote this story (Red Fish) when I lived in Seattle and I spent a lot of time up there. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and I watched the Army Corps of Engineers dam up a lot of rivers like the Snake River and the Clearwater River. I read a lot of stories about the Indigenous people trying to fight this because it basically cut off the supply of salmon and steelhead to their ancient, you know, fishing grounds and so forth. And I go, ‘There’s a story here,’ and I had a friend who went on a motorcycle ride and stopped at some Indigenous bar along the way, kind of off in the boonies. He said there was this one Indigenous person in the back of the bar snapping these bottle caps, and he kept on saying, ‘There’s going to be a fight tonight.’ I thought, ‘Well, that’s kind of a great start of a play.’ So, I used that and then I wrote the rest of it from that.

What’s the biggest challenge of putting a play together?

The challenge is in casting and getting the right people in the right parts, basically, and I think I did a pretty good job of that. There are a couple of people that I have to work a little bit more with. Working with PCA is great and the set was really simple, so that’s no big deal, the technical aspect of it. We put together some opening and closing videos and we got some sound effects and things like that, but that was pretty much it, you know, just getting casting.

What do you hope the audiences take away from watching it?

Well, for me, I love going to the theater and I love it when the theater takes me somewhere or gives me an experience that I’ve never had before. I think that’s what we’re going to do with this one. I don’t think a lot of people spent time at a bar on an Indian reservation, you know, and interacted with Indigenous people, and I hope people come away from it with a kind of newfound insight into the plight of the Indigenous people and our interaction with them.

For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.prescottartcenter.org.

Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @ JesseBertel, email him at jbertel@prescottaz.com, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.

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