ArtBeat: Chamber music, First Friday block party, rural theater tour

Mike Dunham

The Alaska Airlines Autumn Classics chamber music series has a new venue. The programs have been held at Grant Hall on the campus of Alaska Pacific University for so many years that I think my car can find its own way there and home again. This year, however, the recitals will take place in the UAA Arts Building recital hall. Patrons -- and my trusty Subaru -- can consider themselves informed.

This weekend’s lineup includes Sitka Summer Music Festival director Zuill Bailey on cello, a second cellist in the form of Nicolas Altstaet, violinist Bella Hristova and pianist Gloria Chien. They’ll perform at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 5 and 6, and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 7.

Next Saturday, Sept. 13, the action will shift to the Discovery Theatre downtown when the Juilliard String Quartet steps in as guest artists in a program that includes Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden Quartet." On Sunday, Sept. 14, Bailey will return to UAA to wrap things up with a program of cello concertos accompanied by pianist Susan Wingrove Reed. Purists may snort at a concerto with the orchestra part reduced to a piano score, but the whole Sitka thing started when violinist Paul Rosenthal performed the Bruch concerto accompanied by Royal Norquist in a house concert more than 30 years ago. I was there; it was the first time I’d ever heard of the Bruch and it was a revelation.

Also, with cello concertos, a piano accompaniment increases the odds that one can actually hear the cello. The program will also be presented at the Sheldon Arts Hangar in Talkeetna on Thursday, Sept. 10.

First Friday block party

The International Gallery of Contemporary Art is spilling into the street for its First Friday opening on Sept. 5, literally. Starting at 4 p.m., the "Kick it to the Curb" party will turn D Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues into a “living gallery” with performances, workshop tables, sidewalk artists and -- in case you missed it in January -- Object Runway fashions.

Participating artists include Jonathon Lang, Ed Mighell and KN Goodrich. There’ll be brews and bubbly in the beer garden.

There’ll be plenty to see inside as well. Cody Swanson has self-portrait photographs on display in the Center Gallery. Michele Suchland will have a mixed-media installation examining “the happily-ever-after” in the North Gallery. Devin Ball will have sculptural work in the South Gallery and new art by Brad Nichols will be featured in the Guest Room.

Movie talk

Pius Savage, who played the role of George Attla in “Spirit of the Wind,” has been trying to interest Hollywood in making more movies in Alaska. He’s recently been scouting locations for a film in the works by Galen Walker, one of the producers of the latest installment of the “Ninja Turtles” franchise.

In a phone call on his way back to Los Angeles, Savage said Walker called him in July and said, “Pius, you’re always wanting pictures in Alaska. Here’s one for you, ‘Borderline.’”

“There are several big actors we’re looking at,” Savage said. “We figure it will have a budget of about $19-$20 million. There are some other pictures we’re looking at, too.”

The action film is set along the Alaska-Canada border, Savage said, but will probably be shot closer to Anchorage if an appropriate place can be found to build a set.

“It’s a lot of blowing up,” he added with a laugh. “So we’ll have to find a place that allows that.”

‘Winter Bear’ tours

A new production of “The Winter Bear,” a play by former Alaska Writer Laureate Anne Hanley, is being presented in several villages in the region of rural Alaska where the action takes place.

The play debuted at Cyrano’s Playhouse in Anchorage in October 2010 and has toured several Alaska communities since then. The plot involves a frustrated village boy caught trying to set fire to his school. As punishment, he is sent to a remote cabin to help elder Sidney Huntington. With the guidance of the elder and various animal spirits, the boy regains a sense of balance and purpose in his life.

The original show in Anchorage starred Brian Wescott, Andrew Demientieff and Irene Bedard, whose movie roles include voicing Pocahontas in the 1995 animated film of the same name. Wescott, a movie producer as well as an actor, will reprise the role of Huntington in the new production, which will also feature Anchorage actresses Debra Dommek and Mary Lou Rock in major roles.

Sponsored by the Tanana Chiefs Conference, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the show was seen in Tanana and Ruby earlier this week. Upcoming shows will be at the Kaltak School on Sept. 6, Andrew K. Deoski School in Nulato on Sept. 8, Jimmy Huntington School in Huslia on Sept. 10 and at the Allakaket School on Sept. 12.

As part of the tour, the Winter Bear Project troupe will also offer workshops in theater, Native dance and hip-hop in the communities where they present the play. Admission to all shows is free. All performances will begin at 7 p.m. and the members of each community are invited to bring a covered dish to a potluck at 5 p.m. before each show. 

An award for Kane

“Hyperboreal” by Anchorage poet Joan Naviyuk Kane, already the recipient of notable literary prizes, has been announced as the American Book Award winner in the poetry category. The award from the Before Columbus Foundation will be formally presented at the 35th awards ceremony on Oct. 26.

Kane told us she doubted that she would make the trip to the event in San Francisco. "(I’m) Still limping (figuratively/literally/psychologically, and so on) away from my King Island trip in June,” she said in an email. King Island, which is now deserted, is the site of her mother’s home village, and figures in much of her writing. She was able to make the arduous trip to the place through a grant from the Rasmuson Foundation.

In October, in observance of Book Week, Kane will be featured on a panel that includes Seth Kantner and state Writer Laureate Peggy Shumaker at the UAA Bookstore.

Published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, “Hyperboreal” is Kane’s second volume, following “The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife,” which won the coveted Whiting Writers’ Award. She has also won the Donald Hall Prize in Poetry.