‘Assimilation’ evokes strong emotions throughout Alaska tour

Make plans to see Alaska Native playwright Jack Dalton’s powerful play, “Assimilation,” at 7 p.m. this evening at KPC’s Kenai River Campus McLane commons. The play has been on a statewide tour since October and has visited the communities of Anchorage, Barrow, Valdez, Cantwell, Fairbanks, Nome, Cordova, Homer, Seldovia and other points in between. The final performance on this tour will be in Unalakleet, Dec. 4-6.

Billed as “a history lesson you will never forget,” the play brings Dalton and five other actors together to depict very personal stories with a historical twist that brings a difficult discussion to life. The dramatization focuses on the brutality and harshness that Alaska Natives experienced during the era where many rural students were forced into residential schools far from home. The story, however, is not at all what most expects it to be. The production flips the subject matter in a dramatic way that helps hammer home how devastating assimilation can be to a culture.

According to KPC alumna Naomi Hagelund, who saw the play on Nov. 20 at the UAF Salisbury Theater, the story needs to be told and the conversations that are happening are a path to healing.

“I knew the gist of the play beforehand, that it would tackle the traumatic historical issue of the violent assimilation of Alaska Natives into white culture. I didn’t realize that it would also relate so well to the current controversial refugee crisis that is happening. It allows you to put yourself into unfamiliar shoes and ask yourself, what if this was happening to me. What if this had happened to my family?

“The play is performed in a very intimate setting, with the audience in a tight circle around the stage floor. Sitting there left me feeling pretty vulnerable and it was hard not to let the emotions show on my face, but even though I knew only one other person in the audience, I also felt a connection with everyone there – maybe because more than a few of us were crying at multiple parts of the play,” Hagelund said.

Prior to the opening of the play, Dalton is very direct with his audiences when he tells them that “it’s not one that you’re going to enjoy, necessarily.”

“You’ll leave with a heavy heart because it forces you to acknowledge this horrible part of Alaska’s history,” Hagelund said. “But I can honestly say that it’s the kind of heavy heart that is necessary in order for healing to begin; and that’s what the play is about.”

According to Dalton’s cast members, some of the most memorable moments on the tour were experienced in the healing circles that happen after each performance. Conversation is encouraged among the audience with the belief that only then healing can begin.

There will be a potluck and attendees are invited to bring a dish to share. Admission is free but donations are gratefully accepted and will go toward bringing the production to other venues around the state.

Textbook buyback kicks off today

As the holidays approach, students are reminded that a great way to recoup college costs is by selling back textbooks that are no longer needed. KRC Bookstore will be buying back student textbooks from Nov. 30-Dec. 11. Students are invited to stop by the bookstore between 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1-3 p.m., Monday through Friday, and sell back their textbooks for a good price. For more information about the buyback process, contact the bookstore at 262-0312 or email mevgenya@kpc.alaska.edu.

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