Nikolai, Top of the Kuskokwim

Nikolai was so beautiful, I don’t even know where to begin!



Denali on the left and Sultana on the right. Hard to capture with an iPhone, but you get the idea.




The flight in was beyond gorgeous –a clear day with Denali in full view, as well as Mt. Foraker.  Foraker is traditionally called “Sultana” in Tanaina Athabascan, translating to “Denali’s Wife.” It was amazing to see these two peaks from the West, since usually we cityfolk view the Great One from the other side on the Parks Highway.




The population of Nikolai was 96 at the 2013 Census, and we were told that about 80 people were currently in town. It’s a wonderfully friendly community — everyone we met was excited about the performance.  We had almost 50 people turn up for it!

The Top of the Kuskokwim School gym was one of our most intimate spaces yet, which made for a powerful experience for both actors and audience.  You could hear a pin drop throughout the show, and the kids laying on mats in the front were particularly rapt. Not to mention scared by some of the bear roar sound cues!


Our talented tech team rose to the creative challenge of setting up in this half-gym.

Izzy (Duane) and Brían (Sidney) in Act 2.

Izzy Potts (Duane) and Brían Wescott (Sidney) in Act 2.

After the show, we were treated to pancakes flipped by one of Nikolai’s teachers.
Matt, you are officially our hero!


Adeline and Anne helping Matt out with pancakes.

It was wonderful to meet so many kind folks in Nikolai.  We even got to attend a hot dog roast at someone’s house the night before the show, which sure beats being cooped up in the school all night.


Lovely sunny evening chatting with the locals.

Thank you for having us, Nikolai!


~Sarah Mitchell, Associate Producer

Kalskag Grizzlies

We were so busy, it was hard to keep up with blogging at each location!  But I would be remiss if I didn’t recount our visit to Upper and Lower Kalskag.  We stayed at George Morgan Senior High School, Home of the Grizzles!  How appropriate.  The high school is located in the center of the two villages, and each site has a population of about 200-250.


We were delighted to see another mural by artist Kevin G. Smith up at the school. Kevin has created several of these murals celebrating each community’s unique history.


As we were flying into Kalskag, our pilot mentioned Kalskag Hill and encouraged us to have a local drive us up to the top.  We followed suit, and took in a glorious view of both the Yukon and the Kuskokwim River Valleys.  At Kalskag, these two important rivers are the closest together they ever get (about 50 miles apart).

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Stage Manager Kadey and Actor David with the Kuskokwim behind them.


David and I thought the stellar view was worth a celebratory jump!

We are never sure how the audience turnout will be for a given show, but people really started to pour in for the potluck! The school cook spent the entire day preparing moose pasta and other dishes, and all told it was QUITE a spread.



Hungry animals Aurora (Lynx) and David (Wolverine)!

Hungry animals Aurora (Lynx) and David (Wolverine)!

We ate to our hearts content and then the actors headed to the “Green Room” (in this case a weight room near the gym) to get ready for the show.


Tons of kids in the audience!









Actress Misty (Miranda) chatted at length with an elder after the performance.



We were honored to be able to perform for the people of Upper and Lower Kalskag. Thanks for coming out!



We Heart Aniak

April 17, 2016

The second stop on our Kusko tour was another hub, Aniak, a village of about 500 people that rests at the confluence of the Kuskokwim and the Aniak Slough.  In fact, it’s technically an island!

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There’s a simply stunning view of the Kuskokwim from a dyke at the center of town — we enjoyed several visits there during our stay.


Holy Alaska, Batman.

A walk around the village is always our big adventure, and Aniak had tons of interesting buildings like this “Stop N Shop,” which became “Stop and Hop” for our purposes.

stop n shop

Instead of their usual Math class, Aniak students got a big dose of Theatre Games on Friday. The activities utilize eye contact, using your voice & body, imagination, and improvisation. One of my favorite games to play with students from rural areas is “Expert,” where you pretend to be an expert on a topic given by the audience.  It tricks them into talking, which can be a big ask!  One young lady gave a hilarious speech about Road Paving.


And don’t get me started on the POTLUCK!  It was the first of tour, and the community brought some amazing dishes to share.  I think the musk ox stew was the highlight. We had over 100 people turn out for the performance – such an engaged and appreciative audience!


A local resident shared stories about Sidney Huntington before the show.


Front row is the best! Pardon the blurry photo.


Curtain Call

Some of the most memorable moments of tour happen right after the show!  We had a few young ladies who were just dazzled by the actors and posed for tons of pictures.


The little ladies love Lynx!


Those are some good-looking animals!

If you’ve never heard of Aniak, you may be asking yourself, “Home of the Halfbreeds?  Seriously?” As it turns out, this community is proud of its mascot and many are protective of it. Students selected the Halfbreeds moniker in the 1970s. These Alaska Dispatch News  and Juneau Empire articles go into more detail.

It was a true pleasure meeting the fine folks in Aniak.  We miss it already!


Go Halfbreeds!

~Sarah Mitchell, Associate Producer