• Pier One Theatre hosts sold-out shows from Native Alaska humorist
•Watch a video of “Raven’s Radio Hour” here
By Heather Ericson
Laughter could be heard streaming from Pier One Theatre during “Raven’s Radio Hour,” a play by Jack Dalton and Ed Bourgeois, performed Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the Homer Spit.
Based on the concept of Prairie Home Companion, the humorous storytelling is a combination of Native American legends, stories and present day cultural occurrences such as the bossy Auntie tradition. There was even a joke on the Homer Spit Rats.
“The show is a great way to show people outside of Alaska or people who live in the state, more about the diversity of Alaska’s culture,” said Jack Dalton, who co-wrote the script and plays Raven in the act.
Based on a 1940s-style radio variety show, the two-hour show was hosted by the character Raven. The quintessential creator and trickster of all Alaska’s Native cultures, Raven, romps through customs and cultures that also honor the importance of story telling.
“It is what makes us human. Story telling is a way to teach lessons and values,” Dalton said.
Along with teaching values, the show provides an outlet of comedy for those who watch it. Several youth from villages in Nanwalek, Port Graham, and Tyonek came to Homer to see the performance.
“It’s so great, that we don’t want to leave,” said Shoshana Huntsman-Meganack.
“It’s very realistic humor. I can relate to a lot of the jokes,” said Timothy Ukatish, who came with Project Grad College Summer Camp from across the bay. Dalton had previously visited the summer camp sharing stories and jokes around a campfire. He told the Pier One audience that if the village kids could laugh at the jokes, they could, too.
Showing the different cultures of Alaska intertwine, Raven’s Radio Hour is a way to sustain Native American culture and keep alive Alaska’s insider-jokes. “It’s a wonderful presentation of story telling and bush life, and how it’s more related to the city than one thinks,” said audience member Roger Herrnsteen.
Whether from the city or the village, the audience laughed throughout the skits. Lance Petersen, director of Pier One Theatre, said that they were looking forward to having the show, because its humor included a skit written directly for Homer.
That joke centered on about Homer’s summer college student visitors who work here and camp on the beach (Spit Rats). Just when you get sick of the tourists, three months are past – and then they all leave. The Spit Rats follow along behind them.
The skits, written by Dalton and Bourgeois, were created after the request from the Alaska Heritage Center in Anchorage to write an evening play with the idea of preserving Native culture through humor.
“We came up with the idea of a montage of Prairie Home Companion, by creating a radio drama, with lead characters such as Raven and the aunties,” said Ed Bourgeois. The idea behind the aunts is that in villages, the aunts are the ones who scold kids and teach them lessons.
“It’s about living your culture and showing a way of life, with tales about singing and dancing to traditional music, subsistence fishing and hunting,” said Karina Moeller, a Greenland native who has been acting with Raven’s Radio Hour for two years.
This week Dalton, Bourgeois and Moeller wooed the Homer audience. Along with these cast members, six actors in Anchorage trade off positions in the play, which featured shows in Anchorage regularly for the last five years.
Raven’s Radio Hour received funding by Asia Freeman, director of Bunnell Street Arts Center and Pier One Theatre. Additional funding and support was received from WESTAF TourWest and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Alaska Arts and Culture Foundation also supported the program with a Helen Walker Performing Arts Grant.
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