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Mike Dunham

Alaska’s newest research vessel combines aspects of an icebreaker, state-of-the-art science laboratory and high-tech college classroom. It has the ability to boldly explore new underwater worlds where none before have gone. And it has a propulsion system that looks like something from “Futurama.”

But though the University of Alaska Fairbanks took delivery of the Sikuliaq on June 6, the 251-foot oceanographic research ship will be outside Alaska waters for several more weeks. “Ironically, our first two missions involve sailing out of Honolulu,” said Daniel Oliver, director of UAF’s Marine Center in Seward, the Sikuliaq’s home port...

Mike Dunham

Alaska-born author Melinda Moustakis will be making a literary tour under the auspices of 49 Writers courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts. The grant of $10,000 was announced by the NEA on Dec. 2. The grant to 49 Writers is one of more than 1,000 awards totaling $29.1 million.

The project will include workshops, readings and “a virtual book discussion” of Moustakis’ “Bear Down Bear North” using videoconferencing.

Nine other Alaska artists and art groups shared in an additional $200,000. They include:

• Alaska Arts Southeast (Sitka), $65,000 to support classes at the Sitka Arts Camp

• Alaska Native Heritage Center (Anchorage), $20,000 for public performances of Alaska Native music and dance...

Mike Dunham

Five years ago, the University of Alaska Anchorage Theatre Department presented “Christmas Belles” as its holiday season play. It was a pleasantly surprising rarity, a genuine knee-slap comedy that left room for a genuinely heartfelt message without veering into either sentimentality or virulence. I’ve been waiting for it to come back ever since...

Mike Dunham

I attended an evening of four one-act plays at Anchorage Community Theatre in 2010, at which Kevin T. Bennett gave an intense performance in a skit with the title “Six Dead Bodies Duct-Taped to a Merry-Go-Round.”

“While the acting is good throughout all four pieces,” I wrote, “it’s Bennett who sticks in one’s mind for his animated and briskly timed depiction of a possibly deranged opportunist with a dash of guru thrown in.”

“Six Dead Bodies,” written by Dawson Moore and Lindsay Walker, caught the fancy of more than just a local newspaper critic. It was reprised at the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez and included in “The Best American Short Plays 2010-2011.”...

Mike Dunham

Three Alaska women have been laying their guts out at the Anchorage Museum this week. Literally. Mary Tunuchuk, Elaine Kingeekuk and Sonya Kelliher-Combs have been working with animal intestines to make traditional items and contemporary art in a weeklong residency in the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center that winds up today.

Gut skin is some of the most rugged tissue in the body, tough and waterproof. It was a staple in many Alaska Native cultures prior to contact, used for parkas, boots, hats and bags, especially those that might be needed to travel by sea or through wet terrain. The most commonly used gut came from sea mammals and bears, though pig intestine appears to work, too...

Mike Dunham

Fiddle player Mairead Nesbitt of Celtic Woman will make her first trip to Alaska this weekend. But she doesn’t expect to have any time for sightseeing.

The group has four back-to-back performances at Atwood Concert Hall. The presenter, the Anchorage Concert Association, added the fourth just before Thanksgiving, at which point the first three concerts were just about sold out.

After playing in Anchorage, the "Home For Christmas" tour will go to Los Angeles, Denver and several other cities before Nesbitt can actually get home for Christmas herself...

Mike Dunham

Eugene Ballet’s “Nutcracker” seems even more family-friendly than it did when we last saw it here four years ago. Set designer Don Carson’s Disney-flavored “look” is on the simple side, with flat backgrounds and few props, but there are bells and whistles when needed; Clare and the Prince travel via balloon. A few pyrotechnics and even some strobe lighting enliven the action. Mother Ginger bears a distinct resemblance to one of Cinderella’s stepsisters. The Rat King is a pirate with vague overtones of Jack Sparrow, including Sparrow’s uncanny ability to bounce back smiling after he’s apparently been killed. The dolls and toys given to the children in the party scene reappear life-size later on...

Mike Dunham

On a gloomy Saturday earlier this month, at an hour when many Anchorage kids were satisfied to kick back at home, some of their peers were hard at work in the studios of Alaska Dance Theatre. They strutted, jumped, ran and mimed through the party scene from Act 1 of “The Nutcracker,” preparing for the annual performances of Tchaikovsky’s ballet in Atwood Concert Hall.

Bill and Diana Schildbach, parents of dancer Bailey Schildbach, picked up their tech packets, containing schedules and instructions, then waited in the viewing area outside the studio while instructor Erika Sander ran the dancers through their paces...

Mike Dunham

It’s taken 64 years to for scientists to be sure, but they have finally determined that bones found on the North Slope of Alaska’s Brooks Range are those of an ichthyosaur, a giant marine reptile from the time of the dinosaurs.

In a paper published Nov. 25 in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology , researchers offer positive identification of the fossil. They further note that fragments found in the vicinity of the animal’s stomach provide important information about its diet...

Mike Dunham

The Alaska Overnighters have challenged playwrights and performers since 2002, so the drill should be familiar to Anchorage theatergoers by now. Writers are given a theme, idea or phrase and have 12 hours to turn it into a short play. Then directors and actors have 12 more hours to put the finished product on stage, off-book.

This year the presenters, Three Wise Moose and Anchorage Community Theatre, have added a new element to the mix. Instead of putting the plays on a regular auditorium-style stage, the work will be presented in the galleries of the Anchorage Museum. Which gallery gets assigned to which playwright will be another random element in the process...

Mike Dunham

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