Music Machine celebrates 30 years of performances by kids

Mike Dunham
Sixty-five talented local kids hit the stage of the Discovery Theatre for the 28th annual production of The Music Machine.
Photo courtesy Music Machine
Detail from "My Mother's Hero," fabric art by Alice Gant
Photo courtesy APU.
One of Anne Gant's "pyrographic" works in progress; hot glass burns images onto paper.
Photo courtesy APU
Andrew MacLean
Photo by Rob Meyer courtesy United States Artists

Several thousand Anchorage kids have taken part in the annual Music Machine singing and dancing revue since it started 30 years ago. Some of them may be grandparents by now. But the indefatigable Janet Carr-Campbell is still at the helm directing and rehearsing and encouraging the troupe.

The 30th anniversary edition of the very family-friendly show -- featuring 100 young performers age 6 to 18, bright costumes, exuberant singing and high-energy dancing -- will take place this week, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Discovery Theatre. It should go without saying that this is an excellent show to which to bring children -- but we'll say it anyway. Tickets are $7-$13.

Back to the tombs

"Stories at the Cemetery," reported in this section on July 9, turned out to be a hit.

"Many hundreds showed up," said organizer and performer Linda Benson, and they were a very enthusiastic audience. "The actors talked for over two hours non-stop."

So they're doing it again on Friday.

The live performance involves actors in costume as the deceased, standing by the graves of prominent or notorious Alaskans at Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery and relating the tales of the interred and their times.

To catch the show, just show up at the graveyard at 7 p.m. -- the main entrance is at Ninth Avenue and Fairbanks Street -- and look for the people in costumes. They will be scattered around the grounds. You sort of self-direct from one storyteller to the next. There's no charge, but a donation can at the gate will take contributions for the performers.

Benson also tells us that plans are already afoot to work up a set of 10 new tales for next year.

Beethoven needs basses

The Kenai Music Festival is still looking for string players, especially bass players, to join in its performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Kenai and Homer on Aug. 12 and 13. Final rehearsals start next week, which is also when the festival starts.

The two weeks of music on the Peninsula include noontime performances by classical, folk and popular musicians in various venues. The big concerts next weekend will feature the Madison String Quartet on Friday in Soldotna and the Champagne, Chocolate and Chopin a la Tutka gala in Tutka Bay next Sunday.

You can get updated information at If you can play a string instrument (especially a string bass) and want to join in, email

Mother and daughter reunion

Fabric artist and former Alaskan Alice Gant, now living in New York, we hear, has a show coming up in the Conoco Phillips (Grant Hall) Gallery at Alaska Pacific University.

What may elevate it in the list of First Friday openings on Aug. 5 is the fact that her daughter, Anne Gant, will also have a show in the Carr Gottstein Gallery next door.

Anne, a 1989 West High graduate, now lives in Amsterdam, where she works with blown glass. Using a technique called pyrography, she heats the glass and burns images onto paper. Unlike the patient and careful quilt-like process that Mom uses, the hot glass business must be done in a fast and frantic atmosphere amid smoke and noise.

The show will open with a reception at 5:30 p.m. Friday and run through the end of the month.

From the news to mythology

We noted with interest the announcement last week that a big budget movie about the crimes of Robert Hansen will be shot in Anchorage. Hansen is now serving half a millennium at Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward where, presumably, he is being suitably corrected for murdering several women.

The notorious modus operandi that has elevated this killer to the attention of Hollywood involved him picking up women, flying them to a remote location, then hunting them as if they were beasts at bay, a la Richard Connell's classic story, "The Most Dangerous Game."

Since Hansen's arrest and conviction, the chilling tale has made several appearances in print, both as straight history -- notably in Tom Brennan's "Murder at 40 Below" (Epicenter Press, 2001) -- and as literature. A fictionalized version of a Hansen hunt appears in "The Mannequin in Soldotna," a short story by Melinda Moustakis, published in the literary journal Conjunctions in 2010 and soon available in her Flannery O'Connor Award-winning collection, "Bear Down, Bear North." (In fact, it is available for pre-order now at Much more about this remarkable addition to Alaska literature next week.)

Reports suggest that the film will fall on the fiction side of things, focusing on a detective who locates a survivor. The version recounted in newspaper articles at the time and in Brennan's book suggests Hansen was fingered when a victim escaped on her own and immediately went to the police.

'Ice' prepares for U.S. market

After winning cinema awards at home and abroad, "On the Ice," Andrew MacLean's feature film set in Barrow, will be released in theaters across America later this year, according to an email from MacLean and co-producer Cara Marcous.

As part of the launch, they've begun a "Kickstarter" campaign with a webpage full of "Ice" facts at "Please post the link to Facebook, Tweet it," they ask.

There are more incentives than mere local pride at stake. Visitors may receive fabulous prizes like "our DVD, a guided tour of Barrow, your name on the DVD insert, etc."

They also promise "a very exciting announcement about (Sundance Film Festival's) support of our film" in the near future, though probably not by press time. We will follow up with whatever information we receive at

Medical ship query

Kirsten Jorgensen of Juneau is writing her senior thesis at Harvard University about Alaska's territorial medical ships -- Hygiene, Health and Yukon Health -- that went between coastal communities dispensing everything from inoculations and X-rays to dental care back in the 1940s and '50s.

She's particularly seeking people who remember the "shot ships" coming to their villages.

She just finished a trip through Southcentral Alaska but can be contacted at or by calling 907-321-4448.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.