Six Kanab High School drama students have accepted an unusual challenge: find a fun way to portray an era of cultural strife and political upheaval.

Their work will be the heart of a new historical drama from the Old Spanish Trail Association (OSTA). The premiere of the play, which will be open to the public, is part of OSTA’s 2010 annual conference, occurring in Kanab and Fredonia April 29-May 2.

“Tales of the Trail: the Armijo Adventure” is a two-act depiction of an 1829 history-making mule caravan, consisting of 100 mules and 60 men, that passed near Kanab and Fredonia.

That caravan had a profound effect on trade across what is now southwestern United States. The OSTA play, though, also treats the event as a cameo representation of the cultural and political strife that characterized those years.

Linda Alderman of Kanab, director of the play, tells the Southern Utah News Kanab’s Judah Evangelista will play the part of Antonio Armijo, the young Santa Fe trader who led the California-bound caravan.

History reveals Armijo was accompanied on the trip by a scout, Rafael Rivera. Drama student Josh Ochoa plays Rivera, who is imagined to be brash and opinionated. While it is known Armijo in later years engaged in overt mistreatment of Native Americans, the play assumes most others in the caravan also had a strong cultural bias.

Anglo presence is represented by Andrew Corry as Jed Rogers, a naïve, but good-hearted peacemaker.

Native American involvement is depicted by David Kirby as the mysterious Smoke Dancer and Christi Cox as the spiritual and plain-spoken Willow. Cheryl McAllister plays Marie Trujillo Rogers, Jed’s new bride, a Hispanicized descendant of Native American slaves.

The cast also includes professionals: Fritz Davis of Red River, NM, playing the part of Mose Johnson, narrator and musician; and Arvel Bird of Nashville, TN, providing violin and Native American flute music.

Don Mimms, OSTA’s national manager, says the drama depicts prejudice in a straightforward manner. “Cultural bias among the characters is portrayed candidly,” he says, “and yes, there are times when their attitudes and language will make us squirm a bit. But I believe the audience will appreciate and enjoy the way these conflicts are resolved.”

Mimms added the drama is designed to teach the audience a little history in an entertaining manner. “Even people who think they don’t like history will almost certainly enjoy this play,” he said.

He also said OSTA has “felt really blessed” by the availability of the students and their director. “Linda Alderman is great to work with,” he said, “and we’re amazed at the students’ talent and good reputation.”

Monetary “achievement awards” will be given to students participating in the play. In addition to OSTA’s contribution to those awards, donations have been made by the City of Kanab; Best Friends Animal Society; Kanab Chamber of Commerce; Center for Education, Business and the Arts; Spurs Grill; Lost Highway; and Moqui Cave.

Kanab’s Crescent Moon Theater will host three performances of the play, one for students on April 28 (free) and public presentations Thursday and Friday, April 29-30, 7 pm.

More information about the play and OSTA’s conference is available by e-mailing manager@oldspanishtrail.org or phoning 719-242-8619 or visiting www.oldspanishtrail.org/trailsandtales/.