Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Where We Belong
Folger Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's recent reviews of Lend Me a Soprano and The Sensational Sea Mink-ettes

Madeline Sayet
Photo by Erika Nizborski Photography
Madeline Sayet, a member of the Mohegan Nation, found early inspiration in reading and performing the plays of William Shakespeare. In 2015, she went to England to work toward a Ph.D.; her thesis would focus on the relationship between Shakespeare and colonialism. The result is Where We Belong , a thought-provoking solo performance now at the Folger Theatre in Washington, guided by director Mei Ann Teo.

Having discovered Shakespeare's plays, Sayet says, she was fascinated by the character of Caliban in The Tempest. Rather than the traditional view of the character as an English author's caricature of an indigenous islander, she saw Caliban's innate nobility and decided that the playwright was, in fact, anti-colonial, that Caliban would rule the island after Prospero and the other visitors had left for their own country. That was one of the spurs that led her to England, to consider Shakespeare's works in his homeland.

Where We Belong runs 90 minutes and is heavy on historical detail, including the stories of Indigenous American leaders who traveled to England in past centuries. While it is undeniably dramatic and fascinating to see and hear, it may be too esoteric for some audiences.

To give an overview, her topics include the early establishment of American universities for English immigrants on land set aside for tribal schools; the ongoing issue of major museums (including the British Museum) holding on to tribal relics and human remains rather than repatriating them; and her belief that the early colonists did not understand the Mohegan culture because they did not realize that women, not men, were the traditional tribal leaders.

Sayet is an impassioned performer with a story she needs to tell: no fluent speakers of the Mohegan language are now alive, so she is determined that her people's history does not disappear. She uses her Mohegan name, Achokayis (Blackbird), and incorporates tribal language and song in her performance.

The physical production is non-realistic and beautifully evocative, with a rough, uneven stage floor and suspended overhead lightbulbs glowing like stars, designed by Hao Bai; Sayet's simple yet elaborately embroidered costume, designed by Asa Benally; and original music and sound design by Erik Schilke.

Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company is co-sponsoring this production, which originally played at Shakespeare's Globe in London in 2019. Woolly Mammoth had been scheduled to present the play in 2021 but, because of COVID, Sayet adapted it for film. Subsequently, the play toured to seven theaters across the U.S. before arriving at the Folger.

Where We Belong runs through March 10, 2024, at Folger Shakespeare Library, Elizabethan Theatre, 201 E. Capitol St. SE, Washington DC. For ticket information, please call 202-544-7077 or visit

Written and performed by Madeline Sayet
Directed by Mei Ann Teo
In association with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company