‘Winter Bear’ claws at suicide epidemic

‘Winter Bear’ claws at suicide epidemic
May 2, 2013 Micheal Ives

WinterBearBy Micheal Ives, Extreme Alaska

Suicide is a difficult topic to tackle.  Suicide plagues our society and, here in Alaska, the suicide rate for Alaskan Natives is frighteningly high.  A play taking over the Empress Theatre in Fairbanks this Thursday and Friday has found an avenue to communicate some tough concepts and tear-jerking stories to viewers.

“The Winter Bear” was written based on the life of Galena resident and author Sidney Huntington.  While Huntington’s book “Shadows on the Koyukuk” has drawn acclaim, his life story has helped translate the struggles common to Alaskan Natives (Huntington has lost 3 of his 20 children to suicide) in a vibrant and gripping stage production.

“The Winter Bear” tells the story of a teenager who faces trails and tribulations that are hard to overcome.  However, the young man (Duane David) finds strength and ways to make it through from his mentor Sidney Huntington and a Winter Bear.  He spends a great amount of time with his mentor Sidney who teaches him some of the old ways and toughens him for the journey of life ahead.

The play is also an avenue for outreach as the cast travels around the state and to the Interior villages.  Their mission statement includes broadening awareness on causes of teen suicide, helping communities implement support, and promoting healing through the performing arts.

Showtimes begin at 7:30 both Thursday and Friday (May 2-3) evening.  The Empress Theatre is located at 535 3rd Avenue.  Admission= $15

Below is a scene from the 2011 production of “The Winter Bear”.  Brian Wescott as Sidney Huntington and Andrew Demientieff as Duane David.  For more info visit The Winter Bear Project

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khQ5s7sFFdA&w=560&h=315]

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