ALAXSXA | ALASKA weaves puppetry, video installations, recorded interviews, and yuraq (Alaska Native Yup’ik drum and dance) in a collage of striking contemporary and historical encounters between indigenous Alaska Native communities and newcomers to the Great Land. The title of the piece includes the ancient indigenous Unangax tribal name for the rocky shores of the Alaska Peninsula: Alaxsxa (uh-LUK-shuh). This word is mirrored by and juxtaposed against the familiar, Anglicized version of this place name: "Alaska." The title serves as a metaphor for the personal and cultural encounters that lie at the heart of this project. Performers Ryan Conarro and Gary Upay’aq Beaver (Central Yup’ik) – along with puppeteer Justin Perkins – use movement, stories, and puppetry to reveal a series of little-known historical narratives of collisions between people and cultures in Alaska. These histories, at times humorous or tragic, juxtapose against Beaver and Conarro’s own memories. Through storytelling and yuraq, they recount their shared memories and unfold their personal perspectives as “insider” (represented by Beaver as a 21st-center indigenous artist and culture-bearer) and “outsider” (Conarro, confronting the ramifications of his choice to move to Alaska and his presence as non-Native artist, journalist, and educator).
\ Production History
Lincoln Center Education, May 2017
\ Creative Team
Ping Chong and Ryan Conarro