A Conversation with Jonathan Lynch
By Jessica Vanek, Marketing Intern
The rehearsal process for Lyric Theatre’s production of Distant Thunder is in full swing. The musical, written by Lynne Taylor-Corbett and Shaun Taylor-Corbett, follows Darrell Waters, a brash young attorney, who returns to his childhood home in Montana to broker a deal between a large energy company and the Blackfeet Nation. He confronts his reclusive father about their painful past, reunites with his childhood sweetheart, and rediscovers his identity.
Jonathan Lynch (he/him) plays “Smudge” in the production. Lynch auditioned for the production in Fall of 2019. Lynch said the show is not only important to him, but important to all Oklahomans.
Jessica Vanek: How do you connect to the show?
Jonathan Lynch: In so many ways; musically, emotionally, culturally. But I think the most profound way is in how Darrell has to reconcile his white identity and his Blackfeet identity. I grew up in a multi-racial family on the Navajo Nation and the majority of my childhood and adolescence was spent trying to figure out where I fit in.
Lynch said it is important to note that no other musical that focuses on Indigenous stories in America has been written, and that Oklahomans should feel proud to know that their state is hosting the first.
JV: What is the significance of the show, specifically to Oklahomans/the Indigenous community?
JL: To my knowledge, a musical centered around a Native American tribe in the United States hasn’t been told yet. To say this is a monumental achievement for the Native American community is an understatement. This show doesn’t just hone in on spirituality or reinforces stereotypes, it focuses on elements of reservation life and issues of identity that people of all backgrounds experience; the importance of family, dealing with heartache and rejection, hope for the future, and most importantly community. I can only imagine how honored Oklahomans are going to feel when they realize what a great show they are hosting.
Lynch grew up in the four corners area of the Navajo nation, specifically Arizona and New Mexico. Lynch moved to Oklahoma for school.
JV: What is your experience living in Oklahoma and being indigenous? Has it been a positive experience overall? Have you seen any changes in your community?
JL: There is so much history that pre-dates the United States in New Mexico. Growing up in an area with that much history amidst descendants of that history wasn’t always easy. But any adversity I faced as a Navajo child was always canceled out by my family. I grew up in a family where I was told daily who I was and where I came from. So my experience has been just that, an experience. I don’t think it can be categorized as positive or negative, that’s not life. Looking back to my community now, I’m seeing many more people acknowledging the past while also recognizing the people of the present as human beings. It’s encouraging.