Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Alaska Native Playwrights: An Interview with Natalia LaMont Akerlund

Natalia LaMont Akerlund

The Alaska Native Playwrights Project is gathering January 3 – 12, with readings for the 2012 Cohort at the Athabascan Ceremonial  House (ANHC) 8800 Heritage Center Drive and Out North. On Thursday, Jan 10 at 5:30 pm at OutNorth, the featured readings include “The Hidden People” by 49 Writers member Natalia LaMont Akerlund. Here, we ask Natalia to tell us about her play and her involvement in the Project.

How did you become interested in telling stories?
I love to share my Yupik Eskimo culture with my children through stories. They’ve often asked me to tell them stories from my childhood. One I shared was a memory of the “little people” (irciinraqs). My siblings and I often wonder whether what we recall was just a dream or whether it’s an actual memory. I thought the myth of the “little people” would be great for a script.

What drew you to the Alaska Native Playwrights Project?
I was first interested in screenwriting.  Through 49 writers I took a roundtable workshop. The person who offered the class suggested that I apply for the Playwright project. Thanks to 49 writers I found the Alaska Native Playwrights Project.

How did the project contribute to your creative development?
For one thing, it’s a great support system. Plus they taught me the formula for a successful play: conflict, action, dialogue. 

What prompted you to write about the little people?
My siblings and I share a memory or a dream of the iirciinraqs. It’s all related to our Yupik Eskimo culture. Like Bigfoot, the little people, real or imagined, are part of our cultural myths and legends. When the piano played itself, our parents would suggest ghosts were doing it. But we children would say it was the little people. They were busy making noise. Our parents would hear the noise, but they would never see the little people like we did.

What was most challenging about writing the play? What was most satisfying?
The most challenging was how to make incorporate mythical creatures into a stage play without actually having little people onstage. The most satisfying was the comedy that came from the suggestion of the “little people.”  You don’t know if they are just plain crazy or for real.

What other writing projects are you working on?
I would like to write more. Right now I just finished this piece and I would like to see if I should write more for theater or move toward children’s books with some of the stories that I wrote in this play.

Natalia LaMont Akerlund is a Yupik Eskimo from the village of Tuluksak. She now lives in Anchorage. Growing up in the village she loved to go to fish camp with her Grandma Christine, who would tell her many stories. They would knead dough and make fried bread, bead, and crochet. Natalia works part-time at the local public television station KAKM as a Production Assistant. She is a full time mother, wife, daughter, sister, auntie and friend.

1 comment:

Lynn Lovegreen said...

Thanks, Natalia, hope to see the play someday! :-)