It is said that in the early Cimmerian days of the world, a selfish chief found a chest containing light. He shared it with no man.
The clever raven, seeing daybreak at the chief’s feet, took the form of a young boy and coerced the chief into giving him the light.
He then flew to the darkest reaches of the earth, spreading light for the destitute many.
The Southeastern Alaska, Northwestern Coast and Inuit tribes have been telling this tale for generations,
Jack Dalton, Alaska Native storyteller and playwright, knows this tale among many others.
“If you take a stories like ‘Raven Returns: The Story of the Human Beings’ or ‘How Raven Made the Land,’ it’s essentially the entire history of the Native culture,” said Dalton.
Dalton is a mentor with the Alaska Native Playwrights Project. He mentored two budding artists, Lucas Rowley and Maureen Mayo.
The project is the brainchild of Ed Bourgeois, director of public programs at the Alaska Native Heritage Center.
“The Alaska Native Heritage Center got a grant … to put together a project to teach Native artists to become playwrights,” said Dalton.
“It was amazing to be there for the birth of Alaska Native Theater,” he noted.
The project began in January of 2010. Applicants were placed under the tutelage of selected mentors.
For a week, the artists would learn the craft of playwriting so they could write one of their own. Their efforts culminated in a free, staged reading at Cyrano’s.
Including Dalton’s, 11 plays were written.
“Native Voices at the Autry told us those 11 plays constituted the single largest influx of new work in Native American theater,” said Dalton.
A panel sponsored by the Alaska Center for the book will be held on Thursday, Nov. 8 from 5-7 p.m. at the campus bookstore for National Native American Heritage Month.
Including Dalton, the panel will also involve project founder Ed Bourgeois and playwrights Robin Lovelace, LM Heitman-Bruce, and Lucas Rowley.
According to her official website, Lovelace is a sculptor and photographer who works with everything from wood and stone to bronze and copper.
Heitman-Bruce is a playwright and the co-owner of AnchorageObserver.com, an Alaska social networking website.
Rowley is a playwright who has 5 play readings and one production under his belt.
The project and plays written will be discussed with their creators. And maybe even a tale of the raven will be told.
For more information on the “Our Next Stage: The Alaska Native Playwrights Project” panel, contact Rachel Epstein at [email protected] or 907-786-4782.