Alaska News

It's basket-burning time again on Kachemak Bay

It's time to set another basket ablaze in Homer. The Ninth Annual Homer Burning Basket "community interactive, impermanent art experience" will take place today at Mariner Park at the base of the Homer Spit.

For the past week, volunteers under the direction of Mavis Muller have been creating a giant "basket of remembrance and unburdening" named "Inspire," along with a circular labyrinth that's part of the event.

At 1 p.m. today the basket and labyrinth will be presented to the community. People will be invited to walk the labyrinth and decorate the basket with written personal sentiments. At 6 p.m. Muller will present a talk in conjunction with a potluck. Then, at sundown -- accompanied by drumming and fire spinning -- the whole thing will go up in spectacular flames.

Eventually, it'll all be washed away by the rain, wind and tide.

Muller started the Homer burning basket event in 2004. Today's torching will be the 24th in a related series that she's coordinated in Alaska, California, Oregon, Hawaii and New Mexico.

'Wizard' wows McCalls

The production of "The Wizard of Oz" by Valley Performing Arts this past spring was big any way you look at it. There were 112 people in the cast and crew negotiating the confines of Machetanz Theatre in Wasilla. (A cellar dug out in center stage let actors exit to the outside.) There were five big backdrops, the painting of which started almost a year before opening night.


There was an orchestra of 19. There were extra shows added when the original schedule sold out before it even started. And there were 158 complex costumes -- at least one of which is achieving sartorial immortality now with the patterns being distributed by McCalls. The publisher of the popular magazine is also one of the biggest suppliers of patterns to sewers in the world.

Thirty-six costumers worked under the direction of Rosanna Benbow, who teaches sewing, to create the costumes; several were displayed at the Alaska State Fair. Her design for the Mayor of Munchkin Land was contracted to McCalls Patterns in August. Two other costumes to be distributed by McCalls are said to be in the works.

The Munchkin Mayor was played by Samuel Allred, whom the Web-savvy may recognize as "Cuppy Cake Sam" from the YouTube video that has received millions of hits. Allred is also the author of a book about kidney disease that he has titled Opening Hearts" and a national advocate for others with kidney conditions.

Right now, VPA is presenting "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" through Sept. 23. (A "You Be the Critic" review is posted at Its next production, "Deathtrap," will run from Oct. 12 to Nov. 4.

'Masters' series repeats at UAA

We've previously written about the impressive "Tribute to the Jazz Masters" series organized by saxophonist Rick Zelinsky. Every month or three, Zelinsky and friends have showcased classics by Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderley, John Coltrane, et al. at the Tap Root, 3300 Spenard Road. The next installation, honoring Sonny Rollins, will be at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Tap Root. But for those who miss that date, there will be a reprise at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, at the UAA Arts Building Recital Hall.

New work by Anchorage organist

Lonnie Liggitt, former faculty member of Syracuse University, internationally known concert organist and current Anchorage resident (at least for the warmer part of the year), will present a concert at 4 p.m. today at the Christian Church of Anchorage, Lake Otis Parkway and O'Malley Road. The music director for the First Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma, the state where he also teaches at Will Rogers University and Tulsa Community College during the winter months, Liggitt in Anchorage will feature piano music by Beethoven and Chopin. The program will include "Rhapsody in Blue" and conclude with Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" arranged for strings, harp, piano and choir. Liggitt's portfolio includes composition and today's concert will feature his new piece, "Walk on Water," for choir, harp and soloist.

Songs and synopses

One more music item of (ahem) note: Emily Hill, the popular Alaska folk-alt composer and singer from the Kuskokwim whom we once dubbed "The Sleetmute Siren," will perform at 7 p.m. today at Out North. The program is dubbed "A Conversation of Story and Song." The "story" part will be offered by Hill's collaborator in the show, best-selling author Pam Houston. Admission is $10.

Stunning show

From the First Friday Rambles column at

Da-ka-xeen Mehner's installation "Finding My Song" on the top floor of the Anchorage Museum is perhaps the most impressive display I've ever seen in that space. Two screens in the center of the space replicate the angles of a Tlingit clan house. But one's attention is immediately diverted by what's in front of those screens, a circle of 14 oversize spear points. Mehner has made these from rusted metal. They have a strong ceremonial resonance. If you look closely you can see Tlingit words spelled out on some of them.

The first house-shaped screen is an image of the artist with a yellow bar of Fels-Naptha soap at his mouth. According to the artist's statement, part of the message of the installation has to do with the forceful discouragement of Native languages and an elderly relative's memory of the taste of the soap in her mouth as punishment for speaking Tlingit.

The other screen is a distorted photograph of the interior of a clan house. Between them is a projection of a traditional drum being struck.

But the stunning part of the show is on the most distant wall, a series of 18 drums whose skins have been molded over Mehner's own face. Moving images of his face are projected onto most of them, all singing in unison a Tlingit song titled "Dakl'aweidi aayi." The technical achievement alone is astonishing. So is the experience of just standing in front of the singing faces, at least when you have the gallery to yourself.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.



Anchorage Daily News

Mike Dunham

Mike Dunham has been a reporter and editor at the ADN since 1994, mainly writing about culture, arts and Alaska history. He worked in radio for 20 years before switching to print.