ALAXSXA | ALASKA Ryan Conarro & Ping Chong
ALAXSXA is the Unangax word for the Alaska Peninsula, pronounced uh-LUK-shuh. ALAXSXA | ALASKA weaves puppetry, video installation, recorded interviews, and yuraq (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—an English translation of the Unanagax indigenous word “Alaska”— serves as a metaphor for the personal and cultural clashes at its heart. 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).
The ensemble has engaged in several weeks of statewide Alaska travel to conduct research and record urban and rural interviews, which weave as a soundscape throughout the performance designed by Lucy Peckham, layering perspectives on what it means to be “Alaskan.” That audio material along with post-show audience interviews will create an archive of community reflections on identity and belonging.
ALAXSXA | ALASKA will be presented Off-Broadway in October 2017 at La MaMa ETC in New York, and will tour in Alaska and nationally with support from NEFA’s National Theater Project, the Jim Henson Foundation, the Ferguson Foundation, and the NEA.
September 15-16th at 7p
September 17 at 3pm