The Chisera

A play about water, loss, drought. THE CHISERA is set in both 1903 and the present, in and around a small town in the Eastern Sierra. It weaves together the story of Alice, a modern-day geologist who faces loss and upheaval, with the struggles of the real-life early-20th-century nature writer Mary Hunter Austin.

In the past: Mary Austin wages a campaign to save the water of the Owens Valley...
A play about water, loss, drought. THE CHISERA is set in both 1903 and the present, in and around a small town in the Eastern Sierra. It weaves together the story of Alice, a modern-day geologist who faces loss and upheaval, with the struggles of the real-life early-20th-century nature writer Mary Hunter Austin.

In the past: Mary Austin wages a campaign to save the water of the Owens Valley from being stolen by Mulholland and cronies to create the modern City of Angels. In the present: Alice, struggles with the ethics of a crucial assignment from a powerful client for a project that may threaten the already tenuous ecosystem. In the past: Mary battles not only with the business forces against her but also with her mother who is stuck raising Mary’s disabled child. In the present: Alice comes up against her estranged teenaged daughter and the lawyer for the local Paiute/Shoshone tribe, whose land may be endangered by her work. Crucial decisions—and questions of who owns the land, who benefits, and how does one earn respect--put characters to the test.

The play is written to be performed by 6 actors (4 w; 2 m), although additional ensemble members may be added.

Reading at Mach 33 Theatre Festival of Science-Driven Plays and Cosumnes River College; second prize Wilshire Ebell Playwriting Award.
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The Chisera

Recommended by

  • Jennifer O'Grady:
    4 Mar. 2020
    Cizmar weaves past and present together to create a wonderful, powerful play about ecology, indigenous peoples and loss, and the struggles of two different women (one of them historical). Would love to see this on stage.
  • Donna Gordon:
    23 Oct. 2017
    "The Chisera" is a successful combination of well-drawn characters, ecological debate, and modern and past worlds. To put all this together takes research and careful writing. Knowledge of Indian lore and spirituality (from the local Paiute/Shoshone) tribes whose native environment Ms. Cizmar uses for her play's background, is very interesting and unusual. The lighting used would be beautiful and any audience couldn't ask for anything more artistic. The combinations in this play are great.
  • Laura Shamas:
    28 Sep. 2016
    A beautiful eco-play about water rights, Mary Hunter Austin, the desert, mothers and daughters, and the rights of indigenous peoples (specifically the Owens Valley Paiute). Cizmar lyrically interweaves two different eras (early 20th century and today), to trace the never-ending struggle over Owens Valley water rights through naturalist/author Austin's efforts and those of a 21st century female scientist with an estranged teenaged daughter. I greatly admire THE CHISERA's strong themes (including the power of women to save the earth), and the importance given to the Paiute perspective in this unique and engaging play.

Development History

  • Reading
    ,
    Mach 33 - The Festival of Science-Driven Plays
    ,
    2016
  • Workshop
    ,
    Cosumnes River College Black Box Theatre, Sacramento, California
    ,
    2015