Senator Lisa Murkowski Speaks about Sidney

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Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski had a long-standing relationship with Athabascan elder Sidney Huntington.  On December 9, 2015, she took time to pay tribute to his legacy.
From Senator Murkowski’s Facebook page:

“Earlier today I paid tribute to Sidney Huntington, who passed away yesterday after living 100 full, meaningful years. So many words come to mind when I think of Sidney Huntington: elder, culture-bearer, role model, philosopher, outdoorsman, public servant. I was privileged with the gift of Sidney Huntington’s friendship, and Alaska is privileged with the gift of his legacy. He was one of Alaska’s most treasured cultural icons, and he will be deeply missed.”

We are honored that Senator Murkowski speaks about The Winter Bear Project in her speech — watch the video for our mention at 12:20!

Grand Finale in McGrath

Our 2016 tour ended in the friendly community of McGrath.

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We instantly felt comfortable at the school, thanks to the welcoming hospitality of Principal Matt Shelbourne and our Southcentral Foundation contact, Katie Stam. We were immediately encouraged to visit the local museum, where we learned all about McGrath’s history as a trading post, gold rush town, and recently as an archaeological site.

The cast was delighted to spot a traditional Athabascan bear spear at the museum. In The Winter Bear, a traditional hunting spear plays a major role in the climax of the play.

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We played theatre games with the kids on the day of the show, drumming up excitement for that evening’s performance.

Actors Brían and Aurora giggle with the kids during a theater game focused on eye contact.

Actors Brían and Aurora giggle with the kids during a theater game focused on eye contact.

We had heard in advance that McGrath folks can cook, and the prophecy was true!  The potluck was definitely one to remember.

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The frybread in the foreground was GONE in a few minutes.

It was bittersweet performing for the last time, so of course we took one last round of photos with the kiddies afterwards.

Skylers

A little boy named Skyler was excited to meet our Skyler, who played Wolf.

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Lynx (played by Aurora Lewis) customarily gets mobbed by the young ladies after each show.

We finally got the whole group together for a photo.  An amazing feat in and of itself!

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After flying in separate groups to many of the smaller locations, we all headed out of McGrath together with Pen Air.

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We miss the road already!  Thank you to everyone in McGrath who made our closing performance so memorable.

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Nikolai, Top of the Kuskokwim

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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Lovely sunny evening chatting with the locals.

Thank you for having us, Nikolai!

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~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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tons of kids in the audience!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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!