Art Beat: Trio of Mears students wins governor's poster contest

Mike Dunham
Wayne Mitchell as John The Baptizer with Lindsay Lamar (with the fiddle) and Bob Fairchild in “The Cotton Patch Gospel” at APU.
Chera Boom as Carmen Geditt and Robyn Goletz as Sally Mander in “Turnagain Temptations” at Snow Goose Theatre.
Austin Roach and Andrea Staats Robar in UAA's production of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility."
Stephanie Wonchala
Bridget Galvin, Justin Oller, Taylor Campbell and Andrea Staats Robar are spotlighted on a set using projections in UAA’s production of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility.”
Stephanie Wonchala
Mcrussell Lazaro (foreground) with Justin Parker and Christopher Young in their award-winning “Choose Respect” poster image
Scene stealing Tabitha Bailar as Mrs. White in Valley Performing Art’s “Clue: The Musical.”

You're likely to see an arresting image by Anchorage eighth-graders in the months to come. Mears Middle School students Justin Parker, Christopher Young and Mcrussell Lazaro collaborated on the winning submission in Gov. Sean Parnell's 2013 Choose Respect poster contest. The photo includes Lazaro in the foreground, glaring at the viewer, while the other two are caught in an altercation in the background. The message on the poster reads "Silence leads to more violence. Speak up."

The poster was one of several that the students in Matthew Bohannan's multi-media class produced in October. "It was anti-bullying month and we had a lot of different activities," said Mears principal Michael Perkins. "They decided they wanted to tie into that theme, and also our schoolwide rule -- creating respect, looking out for one another. We put them all over the school. Then, when the teacher saw that there was a contest, he asked the class to decide which was best and they went for this one."

Perkins said the trio's submission was selected from 185 entries sent to the governor from schools around the state.

Since the poster was created, Lazaro has moved to Nevada, Perkins said. But the rest of the class will be treated to an ice cream party at Tastee Freeze sometime this month.

Plays are the thing

Local theaters are busy this week with several productions of note -- not counting productions previously noted in print or online at

At the top of our list is the encore presentation of Jack Dalton's searing "Assimilation," a dystopian fantasy in which white children attend boarding schools run by Native Alaskans. It debuted at Cyrano's in 2010, a production that featured Ethan Petticrew as the cruel headmaster of the institution. The reprise, now under way at Out North, features Martha Jane Jack in that role.

The hatred and anger in the character will be very different when played by a Yup'ik woman, Dalton says. "Hearing such horrible lines from a woman, keeping feelings in check and within a certain rationalization of such racism, will greatly change the feeling of the play, and probably make it much more disturbing."

The role of the teacher, played by Debra Dommek in the Cyrano's premiere, will be played by Mary Lou Rock, who shared credits with Jack in "Cikiuteklluku (Giving Something Away)" by Holly Stanton of Bethel, which received workshop performances at Out North in December.

Performances of "Assimilation's" "re-premiere" will take place at 3 p.m. today and March 10 and 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

We asked director Elizabeth Ware why she picked Jon Jory's adaptation of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" for presentation at the University of Alaska Anchorage arts building main stage. She replied, "Aside from the fact that (Austen) tells a great romantic story, what I have come to appreciate is her razor-sharp wit. Her commentary on society, which really hasn't changed all that much in 200 years, is right on the money without being mean-spirited. There is nothing antique or quaint about her characters," though the costumes and hair styles are said to be "period-perfect."

Ware also allowed that the production dispenses with a set and uses high-tech projections instead. This helps the play move "at a very fast pace" and seem "all the more contemporary." Readers who caught the first week's shows said it's a good telling of a well-loved story. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday through March 10.

Curiously, Valley Performing Arts presented "Sense and Sensibility" in January and, just before that, "The Cotton Patch Gospel." The latter is also being reprised here by TBA Theatre. Coming just ahead of Passion Week, it's a timely retelling of the passion and resurrection of Christ set in rural Georgia and featuring toe-tapping songs by the late Harry Chapin -- with the band onstage. The VPA rendition sold out and, safe to say, most Anchorage theater fans missed it. Catch it this time at Alaska Pacific University's Grant Hall, 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday, through March 17.

Keeping with the theme, Theatre Artists United will be doing "Jesus Christ Superstar." Details coming.

Speaking of Valley Performing Arts, its show right now is "Clue: The Musical." A "You Be the Critic" from Stephen Warta, originally published in the Mat-Su Monitor at UAA's Valley campus, gives an excellent overview of the show. "The acting ranges from good to excellent," Warta says. "Tabitha Bailar steals the show with her performance as Mrs. White." Shows continue at 2 p.m. Sundays and 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through March 17 at the Fred and Sara Machetanz Theatre in Wasilla. Read the full review here.

Neither last nor least, Fur Rendezvous may be over as of today, but the Rondy Melodrama continues. "Turnagain Temptations," this year's version of the annual show by the award winning Alaska Sound Celebration women's chorus, features a cast of oddball Alaskans with names like Sally Mander, Urika Garlik, Justin Thyme, Mona Littlemore, Page Turner and Carmen Geditt. The audience is expected to participate by throwing popcorn and hurling epithets at the villain, and advised to try the special Turnagain Temptation dessert made just for this show and served at the venue, the Snow Goose Theatre. Final performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday.

Whole lotta music goin' on

Returning to the UAA Fine Arts Building for a moment, the college's music program is showcasing wall-to-wall performances of everything from jazz to classics, big groups, soloists, old and new music.

The "Symphony of Sounds" is nonstop and includes a silent auction to benefit the school's music endowment. The marathon started Saturday and continues today beginning at 4 p.m. The ticket pricing is a little unusual -- $16 for the main floor and $20 for balcony seats.

Readers recall Bennett's 1991 Anchorage show

Last week, questions remained regarding whether the upcoming concert by Tony Bennett was his first Anchorage appearance or not. Thanks to readers with long memories who sent in their recollections and helped me narrow down the search for records of the event. It happened on Aug. 23, 1991, in Atwood Concert Hall.

He was accompanied by the Ralph Sharon Trio. He also had a show of 17 original paintings -- art being a passion of his -- at Stephan Fine Arts.

Details varied from eyewitness to eyewitness, including the year of the event. But people warmly recalled an excellent performance and, in particular, when he set down the microphone and sang "Fly Me to the Moon" and "Lost Out Here in the Stars" without amplification. He then complimented the acoustics of the then-new hall and told the crowd, "I'm coming back here."

Twenty-two years later, he's finally scheduled for two shows, again in Atwood, June 4 and 5.

The 1991 show seems to have been Bennett's first here. We were hoping for something like a pre-statehood gig at the Club 515, Jade Room, or some such old Alaska club, but no reports of such a show came through.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.