Homer Alaska - Arts

Story last updated at 9:00 PM on Wednesday, February 9, 2011

'Time Immemorial' creates stories within story of Alaska Natives

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

When Sandy Harper of Cyrano's Theatre in Anchorage asked Yup'ik playwright Jack Dalton to write a play from the Alaska Native perspective for the 50th anniversary of Alaska statehood from the Alaska Native perspective, he faced a challenge.

"I was really confused by that," he said. "Statehood — there are so many viewpoints."

Under funding from the Alaska Humanities Forum, Harper commissioned five plays. Dalton went to fellow writer Allison Warden, an Inupiaq from Kaktovik. A professional storyteller, Dalton has performed in the U.S., Canada, France, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand, and was the headliner at the 2008 Scottish International Storytelling Festival in Edinburgh. He co-wrote "Raven's Radio Hour" and "Cauyaqa Nauwa? Where is My Drum?"

Warden has more than 20 years of theater experience, and most recently wrote "Ode to the Polar Bear."

"She almost immediately said, 'Statehood — that's just a blip in the history of Alaska Natives in Alaska. We should tell a story that tells all of the history,'" Dalton said.

A cyclic play that follows two characters from creation to modern times, "Time Immemorial" shows at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 and 19 at Bunnell Street Arts Center. Dalton plays Tulu, a raven-like character, and Warden plays Miti, an eagle-like character. Set in an Inupiaq village on the North Slope, the characters are born and reborn as men and women.

"We would just watch them as they deal with cautious issued that have confronted Alaska Native peoples through time," Dalton said.

Tulu is brash, impulsive and carefree, while Miti is proud, considerate and a know-it-all. Representing opposites in personality, Tulu and Miti also represent different sides of arguments about changes from traditional to modern culture.

Time Immemorial A play by Jack Dalton and Allison Warden


7:30 p.m. Feb. 18, 19


Bunnell Street Arts Center


Suggested ticket prices:

$15 general, $12 Bunnell members, $8 youth (18 and under) or pay as you can, available only at Bunnell.


Parental Advisory - difficult themes.

The play starts "where it all begins," Dalton said, at the beginning of creation. Light appears and then Tulu and Miti.

Without giving away spoilers about the play, Dalton said there are scenes that may be too intense for younger children under age 10. Bunnell director Asia Freeman advised parental discretion, and said it would be most appropriate for high school age youth and older.

Just as there are cycles within the characters, there's also a cycle within the whole play. There's also a timelessness.

"People think when you tell a story like the creation legend, you're describing something that happened long, long ago," Dalton said. "Every time you tell a story, that's when it's happening."

That can bring hope to some dark themes in the play.

"We don't have to continue telling the story the same way," Dalton said. "The lessons of all these stories can be learned to the point where the story changes."

While in Homer, Dalton and Warden also do an artist in the school residency from Feb. 14 to 19 at Fireweed Academy.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.