Tradition’s center stage in holiday season plays — Triumvirate presents Christmas classics

Photos courtesy of Triumvirate Theatre. Ebenezer Scrooge (Allen Auxier) is led to some self-realization by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Terri Burdick) in Triumvirate Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”

Photos courtesy of Triumvirate Theatre. Ebenezer Scrooge (Allen Auxier) is led to some self-realization by the Ghost of Christmas Past (Terri Burdick) in Triumvirate Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

For the most part, holidays are celebrated through tradition. But nothing can stay the same forever.

Twinkling lights updated to LED bulbs. Family connections kept up through eCards and video calls. Turkey dinner made with maybe a little trans fat, but no less love.

This month Triumvirate Theatre serves up two helpings of traditional shows with a dash of newness for first-time audiences.

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” will be performed one more weekend, as dinner theater Dec. 19 and 20 and just the show Dec. 18. “A Charlie Brown Christmas” opens this weekend, Dec. 12 and 13, and will be performed again Dec. 26 and 27. Both are staged at Triumvirate North, five miles north of Kenai on the Kenai Spur Highway.

Both were chosen for their nostalgia factor.

“We’ve done ‘A Christmas Carol’ several times, but I’ve always wanted to do it in a bigger way, and our new theater provided the opportunity to do that,” said Joe Rizzo, who directs the play. “So ghosts could appear magically, and we could have more room to build a more impressive set — that type of thing.”

Dickens’ story, of businessman Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation into a more generous person through visitations by his old business partner, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, was itself a mix of old and new at the time it was published, in 1843. Not only were Christmas trees and greeting cards new conventions, but the happy ending of Scrooge’s redemption helped restore some festivity and merriment to a season that had been marked by Victorian-era somberness. Yet the point of the tale — encouraging kindness and helping those less fortunate — was a reminder then as it still is now.

“I like the fact that the message, even though it was written over 150 years ago, is something that we still have around us today,” Rizzo said. “When Scrooge says, ‘Are there no prisons, and union workhouses,’ where people can go who are poor and destitute? We still hear those same types of things today — aren’t there food stamps, don’t my taxes go to pay for housing, why should I give to charity at this point? So I think the message is still very relevant, which is that everyone is part of the human race and we all have to help each other out.”

And yet, the play transforms a bit every time it’s performed.

“I think there’s always a different interpretation every time I’ve done this play. Even if I use the same script, actors bring a different interpretation to it,” he said.

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Plugged In: Light exposed — Good shots on the spot

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Unusual situations often fool the automatic metering of any camera, which is tuned for routine conditions. Those same unusual conditions, though, often result in the most striking and beautiful photos if you have the skill to capture the moment.

One of the most famous and valuable American fine art photographs of all time, Ansel Adams’ “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941,” is an excellent example of why good technical skills can make or break a memorable image. Original prints of “Moonrise” have sold for as much as $609,000 at Sotheby’s auctions and finally provided Adams with financial security after a lifetime of struggle.

Properly printed, “Moonrise” is a beautiful and powerful image of a small town in the rural U.S. West just before World War II. Copyright law and newsprint limitations don’t allow us to adequately reproduce the photo here, but I urge you to find and study a quality reproduction.

Out of curiosity, I looked at the current town of Hernandez with Google Streetview. I prefer Adams’s 1941 original. Modern Hernandez looks like just another rundown rural town that’s gained a four-lane road, some big box stores and power lines, and, in the process, lost its charm.

Adams had less than a minute to recognize and visualize the photo, stop and park his truck, set up a cumbersome 8-by-10-inch view camera on a tripod atop his truck, estimate the correct exposure without a meter, compose and manually focus the photograph and take a single image before the sun dropped below the horizon and the cemetery’s crosses ceased to glow so brilliantly. Most of us couldn’t properly take that photo in less than a minute with a fast handheld digital camera.

Most digital cameras set to some automatic mode would have been completely fooled by the large expanses of dark foreground and sky. If Adams had made his exposure using a modern digital camera and its default metering, the photo would have failed. The full moon, brilliant clouds on the horizon and small white crosses, all highlights critical to the impact of that photo, would have been so overexposed by a typically metered digital exposure that the critical highlight detail would have been irretrievably lost.

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Path to the future — Sled dog association seeking help in keeping trails open

Photos courtesy of PSDRA. A Peninsula Sled Dog and Racing Association volunteers clears a downed tree from a trail last winter.

Photos courtesy of PSDRA. A Peninsula Sled Dog and Racing Association volunteers clears a downed tree from a trail last winter.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

There sometimes comes a point in long sled-dog runs where a decision must be made — keep pushing ahead, even though conditions are difficult and the route forward is tough to see, or call whoa, put on the brakes and abandon the trail.

The Peninsula Sled Dog and Racing Association is finding itself in just that position as an organization and in regard to the 10-plus-mile trail under its care near the Soldotna Airport. If new blood isn’t recruited to reinvigorate the organization, the trail system that’s lately fallen into disuse might not be maintained for use, period.

Remaining PSDRA board members and interested parties met last week to discuss the nonprofit’s immediate needs in the coming year, and longer-term strategies for keeping the organization going and the dog-friendly trail system maintained for public use.

“Personally, I feel that the trails are a treasure that should not be lost. The place is beautiful and the trail is an exciting and technical run. There is a good future for it if we can get a maintenance group excited about keeping the trails in usable condition,” said PSDRA board member Mindee Morning.

The trailhead at the west end of the Soldotna Airport takes off on a series of varying-length loops south of the airport, winding through the rolling terrain of spruce and birch forests on Kenai National Wildlife Refuge land.

Unlike the ski trails nearby at Refuge Headquarters and Tsalteshi Trails, the PSDRA trails are multiuse and open to leashed or harnessed dogs, whether their owners are mushing, skijoring, skiing or snowshoeing. Many area mushers, particularly recreational mushers or racers with small kennels, honed their skills on the PSDRA trails, and gained experience in the mushing spring races PSDRA used to hold.

“I raced there for the first time in 1999,” said Jane Adkins, an Iditarod veteran from Kasilof.

She said that the PSDRA trails used to be an active host for sprint racing, and served as the racecourse for the mushing portion of the Arctic Winter Games in 2006.

As Adkins’ teams have aged, she said she doesn’t race as much as she used to, and in recent years — partially due to poor snowfall and partially to a lull in board activity — PSDRA has not hosted nearly the number of races it used to. But Adkins said she would hate to see the organization and trail become defunct.

“I don’t have the same interest in running there as I used to, but I don’t want to see it die,” she said.

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Drinking on the Last Frontier: Holiday cheers — Plenty of hop hype this gift-giving season

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell

Photo courtesy of Elaine Howell

By Bill Howell, for the Redoubt Reporter

The snow has come at last to the Kenai Peninsula, and Thanksgiving is behind us, so now it’s time to buckle down for some serious Christmas shopping. Once again this year, I’d like to try to help you out with some gift ideas for the craft beer lovers on your list. You can always fall back on just giving them beer or brewery apparel, but here are some other ideas to consider.

  • First off, how about something growler-related? Kenai River Brewing Co. is now selling an excellent insulated growler. It’s made of stainless steel, is double-walled to keep the beer inside cool, and finished in a nice black with the brewery’s logo in silver. Most importantly, it has a swing top rather than the plastic screw-on type you see on some insulated growlers. Those caps habitually leak, allowing the growler to depressurize and the beer inside to go flat. This growler is manufactured by Miir and the seal seems excellent. I tested one by letting it sit in my beer fridge for over a week and the beer inside was still perfect when I finally opened it. These growlers are a bit pricy at $55 but should last forever. You can find them at the brewery in Soldotna.

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Night Lights: December gifts sparkling night views

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Rising in the east and gaining altitude throughout the next two months are the great winter constellations.

Orion with its seven bright stars, among them red Betelgeuse and blue Rigel, as well as its stellar nursery, the Orion nebula, are quite prominent this month.

Other winter constellations visible in December are Taurus with red Aldebaran and its prominent star cluster, the Pleiades; Auriga, in the shape of a pentagon, with yellow Capella; Gemini with the twin stars Castor and Pollux; the head of Canis Major low on the horizon with the brightest star (aside from the sun) that we can see from Earth, Sirius; Procyon in tiny Canis Minor; and Regulus in Leo very late in the evening.

Because this region of the sky hosts seven of the 20 brightest stars as seen from Earth and because it contains quite a few easily recognizable constellations, it is my favorite region of the sky.

High in the south appears the Great Square of Pegasus in the shape of a diamond. Above it, close to the zenith, is Cassiopeia. Getting close to the western horizon — but never completely setting in Alaska — are the three stars that make up the summer triangle, Deneb in Cygnus, Vega in Lyra and Altair in Aquila (that one actually does set, just barely for a few hours).

In the north are Ursa Major’s Big Dipper and Ursa Minor’s Little Dipper, the latter always really close to 60 degrees, our latitude on the Kenai.
Planets in the evening and all night:

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Heart for Alaska films — Fundraiser hopes to bring family’s journey to the big screen

Heart of Alaska Shaded-14By Chelsea Alward

Homer Tribune

How do you put meat to the bones of Alaska issues without stepping into the realms of the overtly political or insanely technical?

You embark on an adventure, and take others on the journey with you.

Homer filmmaker Bjorn Olson believes such a method is the best way to talk about issues both present and on the horizon in Alaska. After all, throughout history stories have been a primary tool to draw attention to things happening right in the backyard that passing time seems to disguise.

“We call this kind of storytelling ‘cheese and broccoli,’” Olson said. “In order to get someone to eat their broccoli, you put some cheese on it. So the aim I have as the filmmaker, the storyteller, is to create an engaging story that focuses on the adventure and the great Alaskan spirit of getting out and enjoying and enduring the wilderness, and the personal lessons that come with that.”

The project Olson would like to see on his plate is a feature film following the big journey of a small family, Erin McKittrick and Hig Higman of Seldovia. In 2013, the couple embarked on a human-powered adventure around Cook Inlet, covering 800 miles in four months with their children, then 2-year-old Lituya and 4-year-old Katmai. Olson plans to retrace the steps of the family and incorporate footage from their journey, as well as photos and journal entries completed during the trek.

“I followed them and was pretty involved with them getting ready to go,” Olson said. “I spent time with them while they were here, and I met up with them in Cape Douglas when they finished.”

The filmmaker said the project would serve as a springboard to have conversations about Cook Inlet and the future of Alaska, following the precedence of McKittrick and Higman. During their journey, the two asked people the question, “What do you think the future of Alaska will look like in 50 years or so?” Olson said he will do the same.

“It is about addressing some of the big issues,” Olson said. “Climate change, oil and gas, the beluga whales — these things that are integral to our home and life. And if you think about the diversity of the communities along the Cook Inlet … that is such a wildly diverse (journey) in terms of the human element.”

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Strategy exposed: See the light for good photos

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Now that “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” sales have expired, along with many credit cards, let’s return to getting the most out of your existing camera gear.

Used properly, many midtier and upper-tier cameras introduced over the past three or so years are more than adequate for most professional work. That’s just as well, because unless you’ve somehow qualified for top honors on Santa’s 2014 “nice” list, you may need to wait until 2015 for your upgrade to the latest and greatest.

It wasn’t so long ago that all cameras were completely manual devices with absolutely no electronics, gadgets, features or helpful suggestions summoned at the press of a button. No auto-exposure, no autofocus, no handy scene modes, no quick previews on the rear LCD screen — no rear screen at all, for that matter. The only onboard computing hardware was a knowledgeable Model 1 Mark I human brain.

Despite such “limitations,” a very high percentage of the iconic photographs in our visual repertoire were made with those “simple” mechanical cameras.

Misty nostalgia aside, those weren’t good ol’ days compared to the superb capabilities of modern digital cameras and lenses. However, the very limitations of those manual cameras forced users to become knowledgeable and to first think through the desired final result and how to accomplish it.

Setting aside for the moment more contentious issues like composition and choice of subject, effective photo technique depends on proper exposure and accurate focus. Marvelous as our modern, auto-everything cameras might be, they remain susceptible to traditional exposure errors, particularly when set to factory defaults that most users neither understand nor even know.

In past issues, we’ve discussed setting ISO sensitivity, avoiding subject motion and camera shake through fast-enough shutter speeds, and using the optimum settings for each of your lenses. It’s time to put all of that together and look at how your camera determines the overall exposure.

Modern digital cameras determine exposure somewhat differently than the handheld meters in common use 40 years ago. Those handheld meters measured the light directly striking the meter, not the intensity of the light projected by a lens onto the film or sensor, as is now the norm.

As a result, those handheld light meters and lenses had to be carefully and individually calibrated together for best results. Then, it wasn’t a matter of simply unboxing a new camera, inserting the batteries and going forth to effortlessly produce timeless art.

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