Tyonek, The Beach People

Tyonek, home of the Beach People, may be just an up and down flight across Cook Inlet from Anchorage, but that short hop includes flying over the delta where the mighty Susitna River empties into Cook Inlet and a view all the way down the Inlet to the Aleutian volcanoes. Oh Tyonek, so beautiful on the first three perfect spring days!







Tyonek is a small, quiet village. We received a warm welcome at Tegbughna School from Principal Pam Potter. Some of us even had real beds at our headquarters across the road from the school in Teacher Housing.

Thirty-three children participated in our workshops, which is interesting considering the school’s official enrollment figure is 28.  Way to go, Tebughna School students! Several of you were able to keep a straight face in spite of all the silly antics of our actors who were determined to make you laugh. Following our theater games, Erika (Lynx) Bergren’s poetry workshop helped us connect with what makes Tyonek special to the kids who live there.

Actor and Poet Lance Claymore (Wolf) models the prompt for our Poetry workshop.

Such a wealth of talent among Tyonek kids!


The pre-show potluck carried on despite a 1.5-hour power outage which meant none of the cooks were able to make fry bread. Thanks to Janelle Baker, Native Village of Tyonek, we had a terrific turnout of 45 for our show, that’s 38% of the total population.

Ah Tyonek, we’ll remember your endless beach and breaching belugas, but most of all your great kids and friendly people.


36th Annual Protecting Our Children Conference – Anchorage 2018

We were excited that The Winter Bear & the Power of Story was accepted for a panel discussion at the 36th Annual American Indian Child Welfare Association meeting at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage in April 2018.

We were honored that Sidney Huntington’s daughter, Anna Huntington-Kriska, who is also the Grant Advisor for Behavioral Health at Southcentral Foundation, was one of our panel members, along with Winter Bear Lead Actor Brían Wescott, Director Tom Robenolt and Playwright Anne Hanley.

Ms. Huntington-Kriska told her own powerful story of how suicide has impacted her life and why she has chosen time and again to cycle back into suicide prevention work.

Annie Huntington-Kriska, one of Sidney’s daughters.

Audience members told us about their own arts-related suicide prevention projects. Two that stood out: A California project about suicide that wove personal stories of suicide survivors into compelling dramas; and an arts collective in Manitoba that explored the root causes of suicide through poetry, music and art.

Thank you NICWA for allowing us to connect with people from all over the U.S. and Canada who are harnessing the power of story to break the hold of suicide.

~Anne Hanley, Playwright


Grand Finale in McGrath

Our 2016 tour ended in the friendly community of McGrath.


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.



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.


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.


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


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!


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


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

mcgrath river