• Play runs Feb. 18-19 at Bunnell Street Arts Center
By Alida Dunning
Bunnell Street Arts Center hosts the first staging of the newly rewritten play, “Time Immemorial,” which tells the story of two souls as they relate to each other through many lifetimes. Co-written by Jack Dalton and Allison Warden, who are also the only two cast members, the show was originally commissioned by Cyrano’s Playhouse as one of five plays celebrating Alaska’s 50th anniversary of statehood.
Jack Dalton, a Yup’ik Inuit, and professional storyteller, actor, writer and teacher, was first to receive the Expressive Arts Grant from the National Museum of the American Indian. Alison Warden is an Iñupiat performance artist, rapper, comedian, and slam poet. Homer audiences may remember her previous appearances at Bunnell: In 2009 with Guillermo Gomez-Pena and James Luna in “Outtakes for an Imaginary Bar”, and in 2008 she performed her one-woman show, “Ode to the Polar Bear.” “I named my polar bear mask ‘Homer’,” she said. “Homer is going to be the first place ever to see this newly worked script.”
After its single showing at Cyrano’s, the show was chosen by Native Voices at the Autry Center in L. A. for development. “We went through … an intensive week of rewriting in San Diego, and we had a dramaturge and director and actors, so we got to be just the playwrights. We got to really work on the scenes and this is the result.” In a highly competitive process, the show was selected among dozens of plays for full production at the Autry next year. “It’s going to have a developmental production and another intensive two-week rewrite. We’re very blessed. It’s like a mini-miracle. Within the top plays that made it, we’re the actual one that gets to be produced,” said Warden.
The show is about the many manifestations of two souls, Tulu (Raven-like), and Miti (Eagle-like) through all time, in an Inupiat context. “Statehood is just a tiny, tiny blip in our huge span of our history of being on this land, so that was the perspective we used to frame the play. We came up with this story of two characters that interact through many lifetimes and they weave their way through Alaska Native history. We do cover issues that aren’t normally explored.” Warden said while some of the jokes and subtleties may be unfamiliar to non-natives, anyone who has spent time in Alaska will grasp the deeper meanings.
“The theme of stealing the light is one that runs through the entire play. It’s kind of a game that an audience member can play. They can follow this light that is being stolen by Raven from Eagle and given back to Eagle in each and every scene. Jack wrote the first scene. He did a brilliant job with it, because we kind of tell our own modified creation story where Raven steals the light and creates the sun and the moon and stars and then we jump right in to our first lifetime, where Tulu and Miti are born as brothers.” Warden said throughout the play, the two souls are reborn over and over again as brothers, sisters, spouses, a parent and child, a grandmother and grandson, a wife and husband. “Jack and I play over nine characters each,” she said.
The hopeful idea is that, through many lifetimes, two souls will find a way to deal with each other in a healthy way.
“It’s a very interesting look into what’s happening in many villages all over the world, about what happens when villages are faced with resource extraction,” said Warden. “We get to … realize that all we have is each other.”
Asia Freeman, executive/artistic director at Bunnell, said “Time Immemorial” is being staged in conjunction with the Global 350 installation, a call to artists to submit 6” by 6” works addressing climate change. The Bunnell is also sponsoring the actors for a week as Artists in Schools at Fireweed Academy.
“I saw the play in Anchorage at Cyrano’s,” said Freeman. “It blew me away, and I was just thrilled that Allison and Jack were interested in touring it. It speaks to the impact of climate change on the traditional way of life.”
To see the play in the context of 350 Earth, now on exhibit at Bunnell, “is replete with hope,” Freeman said.
“I mean there’s literally hundreds of children making these images that are just all very loving, very hopeful ideas of the planet, what it offers, what we love about it, is really what we need to move forward.”
Showtime is 7:30 pm on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 18 and 19.
Tickets are available at Bunnell Street Arts Center
$15 General; $12 members; $8 youth (to age 18).
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