May 14, 2018

Curtain Call

UMass Amherst theater major writes, directs, and stars in historical Native American play

Drawn to theater as a child, Jasmine Rochelle Goodspeed ’19, a theater and English major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, never misses an opportunity to perform. She sings at New Students Orientation events and in local opera productions and produces free Shakespeare performances every summer at the Pines Theater in Look Memorial Park, in Northampton, Massachusetts. Her most ambitious project yet is her Commonwealth Honors College thesis, 1675, a musical about King Philip’s War, centering on the tragedy of Deer Island, where hundreds of Native Americans were sent, with most eventually perishing. The play focuses on the separation of two members of the group and revolves around their stories in different places during the war.

Goodspeed wrote the script and lyrics, and she directed and performed a leading role in the play, which was performed in March at the Fine Arts Center. In 1675, Goodspeed plays Weetamoo, a female sachem of the Pocasset, who fought in King Philip’s War. “She was a stunning woman with a tragic demise,” notes Goodspeed.

A member of the Nipmuc tribe and former president of the Native American Student Association, Goodspeed uses the musical to explore war, love, loss, and memory as indigenous families were interned on the uninhabitable Deer Island, now a waste treatment facility located within the Boston Harbor islands. “It is a piece of history that links to my ancestors and the history of my tribe,” says Goodspeed.

The theater department is wonderful. The professors realize that we all have different learning styles.

—Jasmine Goodspeed

Goodspeed says that since she transferred from Greenfield Community College and entered UMass Amherst as an Honors-to-Honors student, she has embraced all that the flagship campus has to offer. Besides her two majors, Goodspeed has earned a certificate in Native American Indian studies. She has especially thrived in the theater department. “The theater department is wonderful. The professors realize that we all have different learning styles,” she explains.

Goodspeed grew up in Florida and Massachusetts and now lives in nearby Northampton where she advocated for the city’s Look Park to host free Shakespeare productions, this year’s production being Romeo and Juliet. In the future Goodspeed hopes to continue with her art. Whether it be producing and directing, working on 1675, or acting in professional and community theater, Goodspeed says she will never stop moving forward.