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
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
She now lives in
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.

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