The Winter Bear Project’s 2016 Kusko tour is well underway! We just enjoyed three days in Bethel, Alaska, a major hub of about 6,000 people on the Lower Kuskokwim River. We’ll be working our way upriver throughout this tour.
Bethel Regional High School has an enrollment of about 500, so there is LOTS going on at the school! Wrestling, Running practice, Student Council, and even a Health class program where kids have to take care of fake infants for a few days (that made us do some double-takes…)!
We performed on Tuesday and Wednesday for high school and middle school respectively. The young audiences were right there with us, laughing along and feeling the heavier parts of the play as well. Following each performance, we had a talkback with the cast.
- “Do the animals get sweaty in their costumes?”
- “Does the villain ever get attacked in real life?”
- “Why doesn’t Lynx speak?”
With the high school group, the conversation went a bit deeper. A student asked if we had ever encountered suicide, and we shared that almost everyone on stage has lost a loved one in this tragic way. Actor Brían Wescott mentioned how in Sidney Huntington’s early days, suicide was practically unheard of. The cast agreed that talking openly about our struggles can help the healing process.
Actors led student workshops in theater games. Following these laughter-filled sessions, a teacher remarked, “I haven’t seen that many smiles and that much participation in months.” The power of the arts at work!
After a few days of hard work and lots of fun, it’s onward to Aniak!
~Sarah Mitchell, Associate Producer