“Growing Up Native in Alaska,” the play, was reprised Nov. 1 at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus and drew an audience estimated at 500 people.
Based on the book of the same name, published in 2000 by The CIRI Foundation, the play premiered a year ago at Cyrano’s Theatre Company, which partnered with the Alaska Native Heritage Center to create the play.
The latest performance was directed by Ed Bourgeois of the Alaska Native Heritage Center, who directed it the first time.
“The play ‘Growing Up Native’ presents a unique opportunity to bring people from all walks of life together to celebrate Alaska Native American Indian Heritage Month,” according to UAA’s announcement. “It is a humorous and provocative peek into the trials and tribulations of growing up in Alaska.”
The book, selected by UAA and Alaska Pacific University as one of two books of the year, is a compilation of interviews with 27 young Alaska Native leaders about their lives, their futures, the impact of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, and how they are “finding innovative and creative ways to live in two worlds.”
Cyrano’s Producing Artistic Director Sandy Harper, who sponsored the premiere of the play in 2007, said she felt the play’s powerful content touched the audience.
“It was gratifying that there were so many Native people in the audience and especially families. The play evoked many candid comments from this audience,” she said. “The issues of identity, pride, respect and honesty are deeply shared with authenticity and humor. The end is most uplifting because you realize the youth will be carrying on their Native culture with joy and pride as well as live hopefully with the best of traditional and modern ways.”
Rachel Epstein, UAA Campus Bookstore special events coordinator, said she was pleased with the event.
“One highlight of the play was at the end when people of all ages filled the WWA stage and danced,” she said.
Also featured in the lobby were six Dena’ina posters, created by Steve Langdon’s anthropology class, with the help of Aaron Leggett, cultural historian for the Alaska Native Heritage Center.
Performers included Yaari Kingeekuk, Mary Lou Rock, Paul Asicksik, Ethan Petticrew and Marge Andrews. Sponsors for the play include Koniag Inc.; Bristol Bay Native Corp.; Cook Inlet Tribal Council; the University of Alaska Anchorage Diversity Action Council; CIRI; The CIRI Foundation; Alaska Native Heritage Center, UAA Office of Community Partnerships; UAA/Alaska Pacific University Books of the Year; Alaska Native American Indian Heritage Month Committee; UAA Native Student Services; and the UAA Campus Bookstore.